Sometimes interesting things begin informally by simply speaking thoughts out loud. Last year, we three came together to discuss the new context in which we found ourselves; respectively as visual arts curators of the Festival a/d Werf (Frédérique Bergholtz), Theaterfestival Boulevard (Annie Fletcher) and the newly established de Veenfabriek (Tanja Elstgeest). The challenge was to think about visual art within in context which embraces performance-based practices such as theatre, music and dance. We wanted to take advantage of what we could learn from other disciplines and break open our own preconceptions and curatorial habits. So we thought to meet, to talk, to share knowledge, and test ideas and scenarios, almost immediately we decide to work together.
We, in effect, decided to borrow a model of collaborative working from the theatre structure by investing together, both curatorially and financially, in an elaborated programme that develops through its very enactment, at each event; in May, then August, then November as it travels through Utrecht, ’s-Hertogenbosch and Leiden. Further it is our intention, to develop this programme over a period of three years, which allows for a space of research and reflection on what is produced and on where it might take us in the future. The context of an event-based festival, which engages with large crowds for an intense and short period, was new and challenging both for us and the artists who have engaged in this journey with us.
We have decided to choose this quote of Emma Goldman as the title of our visual arts programme, as it encapsulates our conviction that art has the potential to politically and critically engage with the world we are living it, yet at the same time celebrating it. The five artists we have invited are interested we think in the interconnection between the consciousness of context and the necessity of personal investment. All of them introduce and explore means of performativity to articulate this balance.
Performativity contests the notion that the self is stable or separable from the context within which we exist and operate. Identifying this heightened awareness is perhaps a way of analysing and even contesting the conditions in which we live. We think that simply exploring various permutations of performance based practices in the context of a theatre festival reflects in an acute way ideas of a receiver, a moment, a situation, a surrounding. At the same time the performer puts her/himself literally at stake. Departing from this perspective, in If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution we aim at exploring the performance-based practices from the perspective of ‘empowerment’.
For us, it is a delight to be engaged in an intensive collaboration within an elongated time frame, being able to focus on the specificity of the projects, following their (de-) tours, grounding their scope, seeing their complexities accumulating. We very much want to share this with you, and therefore hope to welcome you in Festival a/d Werf, Theaterfestival Boulevard and de Veenfabriek.
For its first edition on Theatricality and the Live Moment, If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution applied the conventions of the theatre to visual arts and commissioned productions that developed over time and were presented at multiple moments and locations.
The travelling programme included performances by Matti Braun, Johanna Billing, Gerard Byrne, Yael Davids, Mariana Castillo Deball, and LIGNA that developed through each enactment at each event. Alongside these commissions, a programme of performances by other artists was staged each time.