-- This essay has been written, as a reflexive note while onboard Boris Charmatz' Expo Zero Musee de la Danse in Singapore 2009, this will appear on the online catalogue to be released soon. 

[The trouble with love-at-first-sight encounters is its hasty gesticulation to risk almost near admission of indeterminacy complimented by an infallible cortical rush that soon domesticates to an anticipation of failure dressed up ready for the next evening's party. Failure definitely sounds sexy. More so when the manicured completeness of the landscape has slowly become unbearable, when grunge is making a miscalculated comeback, when plaid and paisley is the new black, when those teenagers two decades back deliberately slashed jeans as cool, when the body is without organs, when void and empty is comforting, when thick descriptions of the boring occupy endless pages of a manuscript repeatedly rejected and indefinitely postponed, when punctuation has been overused because the exotic has finally refined the appearance of a cosmopolitan global citizen.]

Here (1) failure is repackaged as the necessary x to sustain the tension that binds. A (2) failure that is symbolic of the obtuse of stability, (3) like those preemptive gestures that allay the fear of the impossible. (4) Failure provides the possibility to keep the phantasm of the ideal intact and tedium of habit admissible. (5) Failure allocates space for permutations and peripheral investigations. (6) Failure poses as motivation to reframe the ordinary and organization of the world as we observe it. (7) A failure that is at the same time a concealment of the tendency to manufacture eloquent excuses to prolong indecision and disclosure. (8) Failure is fragment consummate, an oblique strategy that is productive and cooperative because it is a rejection of finality. (9) Failure is the beginning of an impossible collection. (10) Failure is not exhaustion but romantic and affectionate. (11) Failure stands as the memorial where meaning is generated, worn-out and stripped of necessity. (12) Failure is a reason to start with nothing, work with nothing, and (13) reflect upon excesses that have yet to occupy space.

Hence I was neither surprised nor expecting when I realized soon enough that disorientation, distanciation, contradiction and exhaustion back-and-fort almost near frustrating negotiations were specifically the kinds of collateral damage to be paid and secretly aspired for when in the situation of performing the self. Should there be anything I could comfortably admit to, is that it was that I choose the back room at 72-13’s rooftop as a space to stage my proposition simply out of curiosity. A proposition that (1) did not even exist, but a (2) proposition that conveniently stood as an excuse for: “I need a little bit more time to figure it out;” a (3) proposition that masked my tendency to evade the museum of dance/dancing bodies, in fact one that almost came off as an avoidance of dance; (4) one that strangled the urgency of time and malleability of space; (5) one that tested the tolerance for uncertainty; (6) one that resisted the temptation to create something new; (7) one that attempted an ambitious transgression; (8) one that was meant as a choreographic and spatial constraint; (9) one that sought to escape a predetermined content; (10) one that was almost near empty of immediate meaning; (11) one that will manifest itself in the process; (12) a proposition that should put indulgent decision-making to a halt; (13) a proposition which proposed nothing in particular but a regulating liminal in the face of the endless possibilities of creating a work/ing.
Out of the 13 propositions I could occupy myself with for the duration of the 6 hours that would transpire, I decided against any particular one. Maybe choosing none meant choosing them all and finally admitting with albeit hesitation to the fluctuation of ideas, (1) to a body that has ceased to have a center, (2) to a body that doesn’t need a center, (3) a body discontented with the dichotomy of material and immaterial, (4) an aging body, (5) to a renewed body, (6) to an emptying body, (7) to an impossible body, (8) to an archival body, (9) to a body resisting inscription, (10 ) a failing body, (11) a multiple body, (12) a disembodied subject, and (13) a permeable and porous body.

Disorientation is probably one of those conditions that a performance situation capitalizes on, or a one that a dance practice secretly admits to. Working is mostly spent towards the disillusion of work and non-work, towards multiplying the modalities of making things (im)possible and then breaking down the comfortable segregation of life and work. And yes, now I admit to this failure, I cannot break down life and work. Nowhere was this amplified but in the Musee de la Danse where one by being in the frame is already framed in the work, where even the private mental space has been co-opted in this temporal zone. In Expo Zero Musee de la Danse: there was nothing at all, no objects or artifacts to be cataloged, screened, segregated, isolated, fetishized, and create narratives for and out. There was only the frame. (1) Should we reinforce the frame? (2) Create ambitious anomalies within it? (4) Or unframe it totally? (5) Assume it’s failed end? (6) Admit to it’s failure? (7) Bring the outside in? (8) Embrace it’s finality? (9) Create fragments? (10) Leave markings or traces? (11) Ignore it? No, there was no ignoring the frame. (12) Strangle it? (13) Reframe it?

The Musee de la Danse is about creating an archive. But of what, dance? How is it possible to create an archive out of dance, which is not merely an object of bodily practice but a result of the frames of spectatorship and theatricality? Maybe, because as human beings we are confronted with decay that we cannot but help think about what we leave behind. Martina Hochmuth in her introduction outlined some of the propositions generated over the last three rounds in Rennes, Saint Nazaire and in Singapore: "museum that help us face our fear of death, can we deny the system as art makers, how do we want to be governed, imagined nation, museum of things, museum of dance, failure of the utopian, museum of illusion, museology of the museum, impossible collection, articulating doubts, memories of bodies in Cambodia, strangling time, choreographic strategy, architecture..." The list goes on. Aside from the recordings and memories of the event, what is left behind but these propositions? Maybe these are already enough. Probably these propositions are not meant as testaments nor documentation of an imagined museum for to do so will render it unimagined, which will definitely bring proper failure, one we cannot afford to have.


lecture performance by Donna Miranda

[Materials: 1 microphone, mic stand, podium, and talking body.]
[Instruction 1: approach the podium, fix the mic and read from the dialog]

The title of this performance is Dialogue As a Means To Its End. I shall be conducting this performance in the way that I have imagined it to be: as a lecture-performance and attempt to demonstrate the process that has lead me to make the decisions I am currently making, as I speak. A live performance, is after all about making decisions and transparently showing how those decisions are being made. 

In a performance, the artist is left to the task of merely setting up a situation upon which consequent action shall take place paradoxically on the other side of the fence, where you the spectator are sitting. Eventually what was once not known, or the mystery and horizon of expectations that come as selling points in any spectacle such as this, will slowly be lifted out of the frame. The way an animal is skinned, exposing both its strength and frailty, even its empty carcass. However the theatre unfolds as a spectre of imagined landscapes, it shall always associate itself with that which we see in front of us in space: the systems and its procedures gradually recognized; meaning either emerges or altogether put out; the mystique lifted then the performance is triggered like a bullet fired to the air. Though this may easily come as some form of dramatic change, this moment of comprehension or ‘knowing,’ which should not be confused with meaning, sometimes go on unnoticed. Not because it is unimportant, not because it is uninteresting, not because it is not amplified nor pronounced nor enunciated nor recognized but simply because it is contingent. It will happen. What matters then is that ‘we’ (you and I) approach these expeditions with sound navigation if not precise maps and spatial instruments.

My relationship to both dance and photography is that of ambivalence due mostly to my hesitation of limiting my creative ties to a single platform (I am already almost tempted to say that I have commitment issues but this is not entirely true) but even more so because I have been educated in both as an outsider. Yes, I did study photography. In fact I have been more influenced by it as a choreographer more than by dance itself. And now, this may also be the opportune time to say that I was neither formally educated as a dancer but as an Anthropologist, which I have formally abandoned as well. A discipline that has undeniably penetrated my practice as a choreographer more than dance itself. I suspect at this point that you may be beginning to have doubts whether “she will ever dance at all.” I assure you that this is a fair preemptive appraisal of things to come. On not so few occasions have this been misconstrued as anti-dance of course. So here comes my favorite part where I will again quote a mentor who once said in a lecture: “dance is not of the body.” How appropriate this seems even more now as we are all here to look at dance and participate in it via a different lens, with this exhibition somehow aptly entitled Moments Frozen in Time.

Which will also take me to the title of this piece, (as Jacques Ranciere said a title is always a challenge) before we assume that this is some kind of fusion performance of dance and poetry, or dance and prose, which this is definitely not. Neither is this a speech or a monologue, despite the physical fact that I am the only here one speaking I will insist in calling it a dialog. But first let me take the most obvious operation, a dialog is easily a conversation between two or more people. In this case, your participation in this conversation is something, which I had already assumed despite of you being seated there across me observing in silence and listening. If listening were also an act of speaking then we are for sure in dialogue. Again, I will return to Jacques Ranciere who in his lecture “The Emancipated Spectator” mention: “We have to acknowledge that any spectator is already an actor of his own story and that the actor also is the spectator of the same kind of story.”

But whereas dialog may easily seem to point to some kind of resolution of a conflict or disagreement, we know that most of the time they don’t. Let us not even begin to enumerate the number of political negotiations and dialog that have been dragging on for decades now or how “conflict resolutions” are exactly what they are–not resolving conflict but a resolute to conflict.

The last couple of weeks I have been engaged in some heated debate with a colleague over my insistence that the act of communication is a futile activity, mute and a lost cause because the very act of communicating is already an admission to its own failure. We communicate and dialog because there is already something wrong. Jacques Lacan reminds: “one should not forget to include in the content of an act of communication the act itself, since the meaning of each act is to reflexively assert that it is an act of communication.” But just because it is a lost cause, it doesn’t mean we cannot defend it or even be curious in it, or even aimlessly participate it in to keep things in motion.

Which now brings me to how I have specifically approached this performance that will open an exhibition of dance images. My primary interest being is to always insist that theory and practice are inextricably linked to each other. That to engage in both physical and intellectual activity is a physical activity. Remember when Yvonne Rainer once claimed that the mind is a muscle, which is really not anything new if one looks at it from a medical perspective.

An image is always already an admission to its death, to its finality. Roland Barthes notes that photography is a kind of Tableau Vivant (something we mostly see in theater and dance), ‘a figuration of the motionless and made up face beneath which we see the dead.’ It is devoid of its original content–becoming merely form, becoming a hollow shell, an outline of what once stood with volume, texture, and affect. A photograph, while also a monument, a remembrance, a record of what has been, is at the same time violent, impotent, and vulgar because it is complete. However, looking at photograph somehow brings it back from the dead then becoming like a “spectacle” like the return of the dead. And this is why I would like to think that the “performance” happen not here where I stand as a performer but there on your side, the spectator’s.

It is from this context that I have been finding it more and more difficult to ‘create’–(a) dance. For how can one begin, when the dance even before it has begun is already charged with meaning and content? Even before it has unfolded? Because human movement, gestures and habit are as heavily encoded language carrying history, emotion and baggage. It is inescapable. And watching necessitates making meaning out of what we see. There is after all that clich√©, a picture says a thousand words. So I follow the death of the image with the death of the dance, to strip it off of any kind of association, baggage, meaning and content. Almost the way a photograph scandalously freezes life and motion as if compelling us to, what Merce Cunningham insist: “to see what is just there.”

Following the given precedent of homage’s that I have turned to revisit Merce Cunningham’s procedure in choreography, having himself recently passed away and becoming almost an archive. And approach in making without the burden of meaning and content but to fill up space in time. In a lecture he talks about how dance should veer away from the dictates of metric time (counted rhythm and beats) but to instead threat spaces in time: “how many seconds or minute of something may be rather than thinking it has to fit a metric beat. In what you will shortly see after, I have devised eight one-minute movement chunks that have nothing to do with each other but merely numbered fragments. They will be performed one after another while the lecture of Merce Cunninghum on Time, Space and Dance plays. 

[Instruction 2: drink water, leave podium, go to center of the platform, cue the music then start seven minute dance sequence accompanied by Merce Cunningham's lecture. Finish]
[Instruction 3: Approach the podium.]

This concludes my performance. Thank you for your time. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them now.

* This text comprises part of Donna Miranda's lecture performance for the opening of the exhibition Moments Frozen in Time, commissioned by Goethe Institut Manila.


Question and Answer # 1

Like many things that develop spontaneously from silly conjectures to push for argumentation itself, below is a series of talk-backs between myself and Angelo V. Suarez following a spam pop-trivia questionnaire circulating on Facebook. And because it is always necessary to 'produce' or we just can't help but frame even our most mundane activities as 'production' we have managed to tease out some concepts hovering over the practice of dance-making. Perhaps this is also due the will to constantly clarify our intentions and direction. This is transcript taken from comment boxes... This somewhat becomes the beginning of an ongoing series of discussion on practice and production in the form of a dialog.

AVS: Interview question: "Do you consider dance an outlet for some form of childhood rage? Is this why audiences find your choreography difficult to understand, because they are depictions of yourself struggling with meaning?" Hahahahahaha.

DM: Of course not, that's for the psychiatrists to deal with and not art. Audiences find my choreography difficult to understand because they project their own struggles with meaning which understandably scares the shit out of anyone. That is being faced with their own unbearable truths.

AVS: Would it be safe to say then that dance as art for you is not so much a confrontation with the Self's issues but the construction of an arena where such a confrontation (not necessarily in an 'artful' form) can occur? In your tone, I can sense a deliberate rebellion here against what is commonly known as the 'cathartic' -- at times even 'therapeutic' -- purpose of art."

DM: Yet even the Self is not anything that has to do with the intrinsic personal self. The Self becomes an interesting or compelling material only when it is dislocated from its cathartic even 'therapeutic' persona. And then that's when we see how malleable it actually is, the confrontation with such disposables is my motivation in dance or movement. So in a round about way, probably I'm saying yes that it is about creating a place where confrontations meet - which is movement also in itself.

I think its perfectly fine to veer towards the cathartic especially when one is starting out to activate the choreographic voice. Only I feel that later on, we have to outgrow this as a matter of ethical practice and relevance. I suspect that cathartic works only has more numbing effect to the viewer more than activating our sensitivities.

AVS: It's interesting how you seem to be veering toward an eradication of the Self -- occasioned not just by your saying it's "malleable" but also that it is "disposable" -- while at the same time hinting at your belief in developing a choreographic voice. But hasn't the notion of "voice" in the humanistic tradition of the arts always been associated w/ individuality, w/ self-expression -- things that you want to do away w/? Also, how do you negotiate between this eradication of the Self & the fact that dance is always situated in the body w/c is also the locus of subjectivity &/or of the self?

DM: This is probably the teacher and pedagogue in me more than the artist speaking when I speak about the belief in developing a choreographic voice. Hmm, but on second thought, a 'choreographic voice' (i almost wrote vice, which will lead to a whole interesting topic in itself) is not necessarily an authentic one associated with individuality. It can be an appropriated voice or even a "lip synch" voice. If then, this supersedes the overly loud call for self-expression. Going back to the idea of self, and now identity, as a disposable ready-to-wear items. Finding your choreographic voice is useful in so far as you need tools for creation. But to make this point of art is something I find too indulgent. I feel that this tendency has to be outgrown, even to the point of its obliteration, in order to allow for something relevant to arise. Something that is not just 'private' for the artist (individual). Then, we should probably outlive the individual.

My favorite teacher once said that 'dance is not of the body.' In short of saying that dance is not just of the body. Then the self, even movement, is almost eradicated and not the locus of dance. I think we briefly spoke about this when we were talking about de-territorializing the dance which echoes this eradication of the self. Which is the reason why I have been interested in other performative platforms outside the live body.

AVS: It's refreshing to hear a dancer speak of taking her ware out of the body & toward other performative platforms -- especially at a time when local performance art is becoming cornier & cornier w/ its redundant emphasis on bodily deformations (s&m tactics, resort to physical processes of abjection, etc.). But in your search for alternative platforms outside of the body, are you not intruding into the territory of performance art? Do you even find this distinction between performance art & dance relevant? One can even say your choreographic practice bleeds into the body of work of the conceptualists. Is that an oxymoron that you're trying to pry open -- a kind of conceptualist dance? (Oxymoron because conceptualism is notorious for dematerializing art, while dance is noted for its extreme materiality/physicality.)

DM: I agree and most that circulate are actually derivatives, which can be interesting in itself if it consciously attempts to dialogue with art history. Obviously the search for other platforms shall inevitably lead to intrusion into territories outside dance and yet I have always been vocal that my engagement always originates from adance point of view. And this is a welcome permutation.

The distinction of performance art from dance probably exists for certain reasons. I feel this is to define a different aesthetic and political concerns. It is probably relevant as far as the need to clarify intentions and positions. I think performance art is nearer to painting than performance. Performance which traverse the discipline of theater, dance, movement and post-dramatics. The direction towards conceptualist approach is to break the assumption of materiality and physicality that burdens dance, being always just a representation of an idea or visual metaphor of an idea.

AVS: But has dance ever been truly burdened w/ metaphorical tendencies? True, representation/metaphor are indispensable in narrative dance forms where such-&-such gesture represents crying, where such-&-such movement is a metaphor for flight, etc. Pardon the naive comparison, but social dances like, say, chacha don't seem to contain any metaphorical intent. Would it be ridiculous to say that the kind of dance you endorse aspires to the status of chacha, where each move is an empty signifier?

DM: Haha, I shall let it pass this time. But there this is an interesting point you've brought up which somehow puts to shame my sometimes myopic orientation in looking at as an artistic practice vs. a social event. To answer the first question, yes as far as dance as a 'theater/art practice' is concerned' it will not escape the burden ofrepresentation. And thus the need to challenge and displace it. So it is perfectly okay to say that the dance practice I've sought to purse may move towards the same status as chacha. Which explains the reason why its not so easy to move or dance anymore when you've reach this point. Because how does one overcome this 'knowing' that what you are about to undertake will only be an empty signifier instead. Then you have to take what Zizek calls the 'leap of faith.' Actually this certain complexity in creation, but I guess even in the way we live our non-art lives is what interests me in choreographing by way of social experiment.


Of Course This is a Manual for Thinking
by Angelo V. Suarez

Make a decision: Will you watch or will you read.

You have made a decision, so say quietly that you have.

Remind yourself that you are a spectator here.

So stop reading now, & watch.

You are still reading; you might as well participate by reading further.

Watch, & stop thinking.

By reading, you are also watching. Remember.

At the end of this line,

consider yourself part of the performance — but it’s too late for that:

You were instructed to do so at the end of the line previous to the one

previous to the one previous to this.

Ask yourself: Am I watching a performance, or a simulation of a performance.

Ask yourself: Is this what dance has become.

Ask yourself: Is this at all dance. Or is this drama.

Ask yourself: By asking myself this, am I also dancing.

Convince yourself that convincing yourself is a dramaturgical conceit.

Consider watching to be a performance in itself.

Watch yourself watching yourself as a performer.

Say this out loud, & listen as you do so: “I am listening to myself speak.”

But you aren’t watching, you are reading.

Consider this a melodrama.

Consider yourself separate from the performance,

for it is precisely in separation that you perform as a member of the audience,

& the audience is part of this performance.

Recall the riddle of the tree: Do the images onscreen move when you’re not looking.

You are, after all, reading — not watching.

Watch yourself, then answer the question in the line after the next.

Read this line w/c is between the previous line & the question.

When you watch yourself, are you also watching the performance?

Between the dashes — is this the melodrama of difference — is a question

you are being asked to ignore.

The question is just an irrelevant allusion to Baudrillard anyway

to give this manual a false intellectual tone.

Ignore this line as well. Having read that, you’re not following instructions.

Consider your relation to this performance.

Pick your side: Performer or Audience.

Refuse to pick a side. Stop following this manual.

Project yourself as the dancer onscreen: Clone yourself conceptually by doing so.

(Hence, consider yourself as beautiful as her: W/c is to say: Be gay.)

In this sense, eradicate all notions of an other.

Penetrate what Baudrillard calls the hell of the same.

Play out the melodrama of difference.

Alienate yourself from the forces of production.

You are not part of this. Remember.

Remind yourself that you are only a member of the audience.

Remind yourself that you are reading, not writing.

Answer: Would this text exist if I were not reading it.

If no, proceed to the next line.

If yes — you’ve already proceeded to this line anyway.

Become suspicious.

Ask whether the performance is what you’re watching or the very act of asking this.

Ask whether you are being manipulated or not.

Ask whether by coming here you are being a patron of dance or not.

Ask whether you came here to watch or be watched.

Before reading this manual, leave your ego at the door.

Think: Are you really thinking, or has this been thought out a priori for you.

Relish interpassivity vis-à-vis interactivity.

Allow the bathtub to be nothing more than a bathtub.

Allow Donald Judd’s “Specific Objects” to be just those exactly — specific objects.

Consider these as plain texts, not as instructions to be followed.

If you considered the previous line as plain text, you just followed it as instruction.

Go fuck yourself.

Remind your projection of yourself as performer that there is delight in discourse

& discourse in delight: Both are present in self-indulgence.

Jerk off to the dancer when you get home, then answer the question in the next two lines:

Do I jerk off to the dancer, or to the image of the dancer,

or my projection of the dancer as myself.

Disagree that this is a closed-circuit loop.

Make a decision: Will you watch or will you read.