The dancer (the fragile self) points us in the direction of what the will is capable of learning.
(reading from Alain Badiou’s book The Handbook of Inaesthetics, p.61)
Steve Valk: STATEMENT
When we look at our present situation as a species, it is clear that the seething surface of our revolving planet is the dance that now most urgently concerns us. The effects our human actions are having on the interweaving patterns of that dance are of the most vital importance. We are faced with learning to overcome what Einstein referred to as “the optical delusion of our consciousness,” whereby we experience ourselves “as something separate from the rest,” disconnected from nature and the primacy of our own bodily experience.
For the human psyche is one of the great forces of nature, and what is most frightening about this space-time technology is that it exposes us to this force within us as nothing else has.
We are standing in the storm of our own being. We are standing in a world not created by God, except indirectly, but by our psyches. It is undeniably our fate, so we must face the fact… that it may be… our natural habitat.
(reading from J. Hillman and M. Ventura’s book We’ve Had A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World is Getting Worse, p. 180)
STEPS TO AN ECOLOGY OF MIND
Our problem is, what is the ‘grammar’ of reality, and what grammar are biological objects like us to create so that the reality may approximate it?
(reading from W.Bion’s book Brazlian Lectures)
Choreography has been adapted and introduced into the fabric of social reality as a kind of temporal and spatial form of thought, a perceptual framing device, a self-actuating template for an ecologically reconfigured experiment in contemporary subjectivity. The cognitive scientist Franscisco Varela has said, “The blind spot of contemporary science is experience.” (1)Social Choreography has opened an arena of cultural interplay between artists and audience, a lived and interconnected world of relationships, patterns and dynamics, a region of new and subtle observational capacities in which a deeper level of interdependence, an implicate order of mind and nature, has emerged as a model for a new and regenerative social reality.
THE SOCIAL CHOREOGRAPHIC ACT
Negri always speaks of the great creativity of the multitudes (multitude is the new name for the masses, let us admit to this), but where have we seen this creativity? It is not because you’re protesting at Genoa that there is a creativity of the multitude. I have seen hundreds of these types of protests over the years and can honestly say that there isn’t an ounce of creativity in all of this. Hence, the problem of creativity at this stage is a problem of knowing what creates political heterogeneity. But to create a political heterogeneity supposes very complicated and very novel principles of rupture. I am not saying that all this is easy, on the contrary. But at least we have this idea: we have this experimental idea of seeing how, on a certain number of issues, in a certain number of spaces, we can finally create political heterogeneity.
(reading from an interview with Alain Badiou After the Event: Rationality and the Politics of Invention, p.180)
Michael Klien: Is Social Choreography, “playing for real” with the social structures, applying aesthetic sensibilities and creating a space for subjective awareness in the shaping and organization of society etc… coupled to a sense of “utopian impulse”, or might it simply be aimed at deconstructing existing boundaries and existing ways of doing things?
Steve Valk: I like the words “culture” and “cultivation”. To cultivate, one could say – is to disturb or rupture the soil – but this is not a purely destructive act. Cultivation means bringing air into the soil, turning things over, for new surfaces to emerge, for moisture to penetrate. The choreographic act is one of cultivation – as the shifting and changing and digging over of a situation in the social realm which allows for a new awareness to enter into a specific situation. It is participatory, creating conditions for things to happen…
Michael Klien: Of course this development and these concepts are not entirely new.
Steve Valk: One can go back to the Situationists… who wanted to abolish the notion of art as a separate, specialized activity. They saw the social realm as a realm of creativity, a utopian topography which harboured vital and socially transformative possibilities. Joseph Beuys is another figure of historical importance, although I don’t feel I know enough about his work. It is interesting nonetheless, that in the 22 years I have lived and worked in the arts in Germany, Beuys has rarely if ever been mentioned, even though so much of the work I have been involved in, in places like Ballet Frankfurt, was conceptually close and begging for comparison. I mean, without a political mandate, we transformed a traditional state theater structure into a new kind of creative civic interface whose flexible interior design was done entirely in matted felt, one of Beuys’ favorite materials. Thousands of people spent time there, participated, performed, there were hundreds of conversations and discussions. No one mentioned Beuys or his ideas to me. I find that quite astounding.
I think the real difficulty is that some readers just do not believe that I mean what I say.
I suspect that they think it is all a sort of entertainment and hope to come out at the end feeling refreshed.
(quote from Gregory Bateson in the book About Bateson, p.11)
If you mention Beuys in Germany today the response is, “great sculptor and visual artist, excellent, timeless work, fantastic”. If you remind them that he co-founded the Green Party, the Free Inter-national University and that he spent thousands and thousands of hours talking with people and lecturing, what you get is stammering, sheepish looks and silence. In the same way as Bateson, I think Beuys´ thought is still indigestible today. People in the arts and in society as a whole have been actively trying to forget that Beuys actually meant what he said.
NEW MEANINGFUL PUBLIC SPACE
We are all in the bowels of this giant machine, the modern global economy, being used as instruments to serve its ends. We have created this machine collectively, but we feel trapped individually. We´ve shifted the burden so much to the machine that we don`t see a lot of options even though they may be really there. We can’t go into the woods and live happily off the land anymore. So we “deep freeze” our ability to sense what is actually going on. We deny the larger consequences of what we are doing.
(reading from P. Senge, O. Scharmer, B. Flowers, J. Jaworski’s book Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society, p. 282)
Conditions for large-scale transformative innovation in the arts, culture and society are desperate, bordering on hopeless. This is not due to lack of potential funding, talented individuals, institutional resources, project ideas, or of a genuinely concerned and engaged citizenry. What is lacking is an awareness, an expanded sensibility, which could inform, coordinate and bring about the conditions necessary to draw together and actualize capacities for profound, transformative innovation. This sensibility would need a locus, a point of orientation, a place where new domains of meaning can be cultivated.
an already existing,
yet still-to-be-created design,
that you and I are somehow part of
PERFORMING CULTURE WITH THE MIND OF WISDOM
In the current state of deep insecurity and uncertainty, it is essential for us as individuals and organizations to have a place to question our deepest assumptions – assumptions shared by virtually all modern societies – assumptions that are now so taken for granted that it is almost impossible for any of us to realize their impact. What is missing is a place and an infrastructure for motivated citizens and institutions to engage with each other, to immerse themselves collectively in the realities of the contemporary situation.
THE TIME TO HOUSE OURSELVES… IS NOW!!!
An infrastructure must be created which would provide opportunities and incentives for city-dwellers and local institutions to suspend their habitual ways of seeing, to talk openly about complex problems, to take stock of their situations, to exchange ideas and find common ground. An interactive field in which to cultivate a new sense of civic consciousness, one that is more fluid and in dialogue with itself, where citizens can detach from their everyday functions and roles and cultivate a wider, panoramic, sense of knowing.
A GROWING SENSE OF URGENCY
Complex, interdependent issues are increasingly shaping the context for strategic thinking in our world. Yet the pressures created by these very phenomena tend to keep everyone in a continual“doing”mode, with little or no time for reflection and real thinking. The number of people who believe there are profound flaws in the current process of globalization is growing, yet the environment of trust needed to think about these problems is fragile. Only when people begin to see from within the forces that shape their reality and to see their part in how those forces might evolve, can a vision, a way out of the crisis, become manifest.
A NEW SOURCE OF INTENTION
People are searching for ways to develop a new source of action, one that lies beyond preconceived plans or narrow self interest, beyond past experiences. For this to be possible it is necessary to provide opportunities to experience acting in the world, not on the world, to explore places and possibilities, stategies and prototypes for shifting from the past, to opening up to what might be emerging from the future. A place to do what needs to be done, for action as a spontaneous product of the whole.
THE NEXT EVOLUTIONARY STEP
WILL BE CULTURAL
The schizophrenic split between supersensible conditions and physical conditions is something we have overcome and we can now head towards a new cultural epoch; or you can say: we have a new “cultural epoch”.
(reading from an interview with Joseph Beuys What is Art?, p. 77)
Michael Klien: This development that has been going on… towards a notion of “social” choreography… could it have a real impact in the wider social sphere… or will it remain on an abstract level as a terminology with a lot of potential but without physical effects?
Steve Valk: Well… as James Hillman says, We are standing in the storm of our own being. We have been swept up into forces of our own making, whether it be our advanced technology, the globalized economy or the ever-incresing disruption and destruction of the ecosphere. If the awareness and development of strategies like “social choreography” gets stuck somewhere, it will not get stuck in one place but in many different places. Here I have to recall your dream Michael, about taking part in a profound and massive demonstration against humanity. If choreographers like Michael Klien and William Forsythe get stuck, then Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Betty Sue Flowers and Joe Jaworski, the enlightened business consultants at MIT, will also be stuck. Our good friends Gordon Lawrence and Bipin Patel doing Social Dreaming in London will get stuck. Al Gore and the deep ecologists, Jesper Hoffmeyer and the holistic biologists will get stuck. Cybernetic Epistemology, in the Batesonian sense of the word, and the theories of Einstein and Quantum Physics will be stuck.
The Cartesian split between mind and matter is no longer sustainable. The bringing forth of a world is made possible through the quality of our mental disposition for being available to connectedness that is made manifest in the matrix and, more generally, in the mental web of life that connects all humanity that is being postulated.
(reading from Gordon Lawrence’s book Experiences in Social Dreaming, p. 270)
So, not just artists and choreographers would be caught in the no man’s land of abstract ideas, in “the dogmatic slumber of reductionist thinking”, as Kiesler says, there would be a living matrix of people around the world and across many disciplines, unable to implement their ideas. There is a convergent new reality being postulated on many different levels. If things gets stuck… as they might… it will be a shared stuckness.
CONCLUSION: On “Stuckness“
The old idea of a cell being like a sack full of proteins and all sorts of other good things has been supplanted by the contemporary view of the cell as having a complex inner structure that bears more resemblance to the structure of a city than to the structure of a sack of flour. But the point at which the true focus of this account starts to become clear is when we discover that it is precisely this freezing of the cell’s chemical make-up which institutes a totally new kind of freedom, one which I call…semiotic freedom. Because even the single-celled organism knew a little trick which proved most effective in tempering the growth of predictability. It was able to describe itself – or at least key aspects of itself – in an abstract code embedded in the string DNA molecule bases. Fragments of this coded self-description could then be copied, sometimes wrongly, and traded with other members of the same species – or even on occasion, with members of another species. The never – ending sequence of “mistakes” and “misunderstandings” that put life-forms on earth into a constant state of flux, the sequence which we call… organic evolution, was set in motion.
(reading from Jesper Hoffmeyer’s book Signs of Meaning in the Universe, p. 29)
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Discard your memory, discard the future tense of your desire; forget them both. Both what you knew and what you want, to leave space for a new idea
(reading from W. Bion’s book Bion in New York and San Paolo)
If faced with the extreme situation affecting us all, and stimulated by the sick condition of the social organism, people together can follow through with the impulse to change things, it will be possible to develop an intuition of a healthy image of this social organism. And as their hearts warm to this social form that still needs to be created, the will of each individual becomes a part of a common and greater will, which may then possess the strength to create something new on the one hand, and on the other, to develop ever new insights into how this path towards a new reality might be travelled.
(reading from an interview with Joseph Beuys What is Art?)