Social choreography emerges out of a new and growing consciousness about how human activity transforms and is transformed by the world: not only how human activity physically moulds the environment, but how the very frames we think by organize our perceptions, and give form to the particular ways we participate in the life around us. Thus social choreographic thinking can be applied to any kind of social organisation, or any set of procedures involving groups of people.
We might think of choreography in terms of ‘rehearsal’; that is, as the working out and working through of utopian, nevertheless ‘real’, social relations.
Andrew Hewitt, Social Choreography
The work of Social Choreography can include deep dramaturgical research, the creation of innovative communicational formats and the discovery and manifestation of alternative patterns through ecologies of collective experience. Social choreographies range in form from theatre based or site-specific time-structured events that can be presented as ‘performances,’ to open-ended choreographic processes ‘staged’ on the social plastic. As with all choreographic interventions, the objective is to give rise to a state of dance.
Thinking in itself is an invisible sculptural process, which becomes visible by impression into material, into form.
Hans Dieter Huber, The Artwork as a System and its Aesthetic Experience. Remarks on the Art of Joseph Beuys here
The sculptural process of thinking is inscribed in the structured improvisation of dancers|citizens. One aim of this choreographic practice is to nudge this embodied thinking process into a state of dance:
Dance is a state of excitement in a system where change becomes possible, desirable, fluid and pleasurable
Jeffrey Gormly after Michael Klien
Dance in its most potent form manages to momentarily ‘live’ new orders
In truth, the right way to begin to think about the pattern which connects is to think of it as primarily a dance of interacting parts
Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature
This thinking of dance as state rather than activity facilitates thinking choreography as a practice of governance. The obvious analogy with nation ‘state’ allows us to comprehend the potential within choreographic practice for creating more refined understandings of collective thinking process such as those embodied in Parliamentary political processes.
I believe thought must take a step back… We must recompose, for our time, a thinking of truth that would be articulated .. without passing through the figure of the master… To lay the foundations for a doctrine of choice and decision that would not bear the initial form of mastery upon choice and decision.
Alain Badiou, Handbook of Inaesthetics
Social choreographies stage an evental surface, as Alain Badiou thinks the ‘event’, on which new figurations of truth can arise and disclosed outside of the controlling forms of procedural politics. This productive state of dance invests the thought process with qualities including lightness, grace, flexibility, flow, give-and-take, spontaneity, improvisation, emergence, creativity, communication, distributed responsibility, emergent leadership, non-interference etc
It is also possible to analogise about this state of dance from thinking that seeks to resolve the question of dynamic social processes that enable full participation and still maintain coherence at the level of ‘superorganism’:
Seen from a semiotic point of view a superorganism might be understood as an assembly of organisms that collectively interacts with its environments in a way that depends on a finely elaborated internal semiotic activity among the individual organisms.
Jesper Hoffemeyer, ‘Semiotic Freedom: An Emerging Force’ in Information and the Nature of Reality. From Physics to Metaphysics Cambridge University Press
Eugene Thacker has written comprehensively about the qualities of different forms of superorganism in their relevance to thinking about political agency and organisation. Of particular relevance to this research is his writing on Swarms:
- A swarm is an organization of multiple, individuated units with some relation to one another. – Relation is the rule in swarms. This pertains as much to the level of the individual unit as it does to the overall organization of the swarm. – A swarm is a dynamic phenomenon (following from its relationality). A swarm always exists in time and, as such, is always acting, interacting, interrelating, and self-transforming. – A swarm is a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, but it is also a heterogeneous whole. .. the group only arises from the localized, singular, heterogeneous actions of individual units. – This does not mean that a swarm prioritizes the group over the individual. Because of this, a swarm does not exist at a local or global level, but at a third level, where multiplicity and relation intersect. – A flock of birds, a school of fish, or a swarm of insects is not one, homogenous thing, but rather a dynamic and highly differentiated collectivity of interacting agents. – Self-organization as the emergence of a global pattern from localized interactions. – A heterogeneous whole. In swarms there is no central command, no unit or agent which is able to survey, oversee and control the entire swarm. Yet the actions of the swarm are directed, the movement motivated, and the pattern has a purpose. – A tension between pattern and purpose. – The tension between collectivity and connectivity. – The multitude is positioned between the individual and the group; it is a “multiplicity of singularities” – The multitude operates through relationality and cooperation, which establishes “the common” or a set of partially-overlapping common affects, issues, and experiences – The central problematic of the multitude is the “problem of the political decision,” or how the common can be constituted while fostering difference – The question the multitude asks of itself is “can the multitude self-govern?” rather than the question asked of the multitude — “is the multitude governable?” – The most dangerous aspects of the multitude — its volatility, its unpredictability, and its instability — are also its most radical aspects — constitutive power, collective voice, and an immanent ethics.
A community united through common enthusiasm, effervescence
…effervescence of a group, its potential for communication is..
a tactics.. of intimate burn-off and an ecstatic movement out of oneself
Alan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability
Social choreography is performed by citizens rather than ‘performers.’ There is a special role for dancer/performers to act as models, insiders or exemplars of how to inhabit the specific choreographic procedures at play.
Where relational aesthetics employs the social gesture as a work of art
largely concerned with producing and reflecting upon the interrelations between people and the extent to which such relations – or communicative acts – need to be considered as an aesthetic form … as an exercise in ‘showing’.
‘And this [relational] “arena of exchange” must be judged on the basis of aesthetic criteria, in other words, by analyzing the coherence of its form, and then the symbolic value of the “world” it suggests to us, and the image of human relations reflected by it’
Anthony Downey, ‘Towards a Politics of (Relational) Aesthetics’, Quoting Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics
social choreography instantiates an aesthetic base for art as an action that aims to transform the actual conditions of the world:
The strategy of “social choreography” is an attempt to lure citizens and institutions out of their areas of control and familiarity and into dynamic, experiential, creative, existential and communal situations. Its aim is to “stake out” new participatory and “trans-disciplinary” cultural territory