If we understand the cultural history of masquerading as an accessing of alterity in a situation of social conformity, then we think it is interesting to readdress this notion today precisely because there has never before been such an intense reinforcement of the cult of the individual. Despite years of serious questioning of the construction of subjectivity through feminism, post colonialism, post communism and other intellectual and activist strategies, we seem to have been over taken by events. Consumer culture strategically reinforces individualism – the channels of new media provide endless possibilities for intense self- articulation and yet where does this bring us in relation to the complex understanding of the constructions of singularity and other emancipatory possibilities? Reading the mask right now and addressing a sense of alterity in a moment of unilateral governmentality or status quo seems prescient.
In our exploration of the historical trajectories of the research field of masquerade in psychoanalysis, feminism and performativity, we are particularly interested in Judith Butlers rethinking of Joan Riviere’s text Womanliness As A Masquerade (1929), stating that gender is a fantasy enacted by “corporeal styles that constitute bodily significations.” In other words, gender can be considered as an act, a performance, a set of manipulated codes, costumes, rather than a core aspect of an essential identity.
Another point of departure is a text by Giorgio Agamben, entitled Notes on Gesture (1993). According to Agamben, “an age that has lost its gestures is, for this reason, obsessed by them. For human beings who have lost every sense of naturalness, each single gesture becomes a destiny and the more gestures lose their ease under the action of invisible powers, the more life becomes indecipherable”. Thinking of the gesture in these terms helps us to address the notion of the masquerade within the context of the embodied experience of social sphere, the collective, and in relation to a different understanding of what constitutes the political.
From there If I Can’t Dance looks at forms of masking, mimicry, parody and assimilation. Areas for exploration include the construction of subjectivity, modes of formalized and ritualized behavior, codes of contemporary transgressive and normative behavior, authenticity and falseness etc.
In addition to the masquerade as subject matter in art, our attention is directed to its manifestations in the methodologies of art making. Methodologies that manifest themselves in for instance choreographies of detour, suspension and metonymy, activating that what is latent. As such, If I Can’t Dance aims to articulate in art’s production and reception both, apparent narrative and that which remains illegible, as vital actors.
Departing from investigations of theatricality and the live moment (Edition I, 2005) and of the legacies and potentials of feminism in contemporary art practice (Edition II, 2006–2008), Edition III (2008–2010) focuses on the notion of the masquerade.
Keren Cytter, Jon Mikel Euba, Olivier Foulon, Suchan Kinoshita, Joachim Koester and Sarah Pierce are invited to produce new projects with If I Can’t Dance that are developed within the time frame of two years, and are presented at subsequent moments at the Overgaden arts centre in Copenhagen; Sala Rekalde in Bilbao; Project Arts Centre in Dublin; and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.
In addition, If I Can’t Dance presents its new series If I Can’t Dance Tonight, hosted by Frascati Theatre in Amsterdam. The events within this series are organised on a monthly basis, and both contextualize the practices of the artists that go with us on tour, and articulate the field of research central to Edition III by commissioning live performances.