A book as a choreography

By Sabina Holzer

We will find ourselves in circumstances
endlessly teach us what we do not know.

We will keep sharing and showing and
the way we operate.[i]

“The Swedish Dance History” is a collaboration. It also has the form of a book. It has nothing to do with the national State of Sweden and nothing with the linear causal construction of history. “The Swedish Dance History” is a choreography. It is dance. It is pleasure and inspiration.[ii]

The first edition of “The Swedish Dance History” was released on April 29th, 2009 – the International Day of Dance – in Stockholm. The second edition was produced during ImPulsTanz 2010 and presented on August 13th, 2010 as a part of the festival. The 2nd edition appeared, similar to the first one, as a softcover silver brick. It measures 11 cm x 17.5 cm and is 7.5 cm thick. This second volume is a collection of 226 authors, at least 9 manifests and, surprisingly, 15 photos of people with electric guitars. (The pop icon item for resistance and freedom seems to be a very favorite instrument in dance and choreography these days.)

While flicking through the book, one gets caught by bold headlines such as “An attempt at writing a ‘Compositionist Manifesto’”, “I don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it (Sex Pistols)”, “Work, desire and depression understanding cognitariat”, “Ride the wave dude”, “Score for suits”, “Mystery of the whistle”, “Zombies of immaterial Labor: the modern monster and the death of the death”, “Volcano”, “What is the contemporary”, “What is the meaning of contemporary”, “Desire dances”. – And one will realize immediately that the fingers want to perform this movement again and again: this dance of turning page after page, the eyes tracing the lines, touching the thoughts. One has to find one’s own system of navigation. There is no index, so everyone has to decide how to get active with the book. By jumping over articles till one grabs you, holds you tight, in an embrace, an attack that lifts you, makes you fall and fly, makes you listen until you surrender to the movement the text offers. Even when exhausted by all 1103 pages of material, one or the other great nasty funny statement will juice you up and change your day. Or if you take what is called the usual procedure, and examine one page after the other; either way the essays, scores, poems, drawings, images will take you on a ride. They make you dance. And: The history of dance is initiated through dance.[iii]

History is made by those who write it
“The Swedish Dance History” is rhizomatic in its approach to theory and research. It claims a multiple with non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. History and culture is regarded as a field, a map, a wide array of attractions and influences. In no way does it represent a linear figure of time, but rather a figure of space which is flexible, a heterogeneous space of different layers of actions and thoughts.

Both times the book, which is also an event, was produced through an open call: “Everybody who considers him or herself a practitioner of dance and choreography to contribute anything from text to images, your own or others.“ It does not depend on nation, education, occupation, religion, fame whether your contribution is included or not. Just if the material is regarded as too self-promoting, it will not be published.

The book resonates with references of artistic concern. Experience, philosophy, science, celebration, complaints, bashings and jokes. As a project, “The Swedish Dance History” reflects the political potential and impact of contemporary dance and choreography today. The set up is a clear refusal of the conservative, neoliberal, capitalist, right-wing tendencies society currently faces and which are accompanied by an increase in bureaucracy, institutionalization, administration, safe programming and serving the spectacle within the field of contemporary dance and choreography.

“The Swedish Dance History” promotes and executes a different way of production: a book as a collective process, with no concerns in relation to copyright, quickly put together like a collage, as an event is a badinage towards academia and institutions. It acclaims an independent practice of choreography and dance while translating movement and rhythm into thought, text, image, action and social gathering / situation.

The project was initiated by a self-organized, user-directed network organization called INPEX (International Performance Exchange)[iv]. The “assembly” of the book, too, is an open call for those who want to participate. The distribution of 3,000 books is also done by those who want to distribute it and happens without employing a publishing company. It passes from hand to hand. And it is for free.

“The Swedish Dance History” sets choreography and dance in motion, causing choreography and dance. In the frame of the set-up, in the invitation for contribution, in the assembly, in the release, in the distribution, in the reading, in the consequences thereof.

Needless to say, the project uses and strengthens the process within a community of makers and practitioners of an art form, which in this instance presents itself as ungovernable in the best sense.
To be continued.

The Swedish Dance History Audio: 08/08/10

[i] The Swedish Dance History, p.8.
[ii] The Swedish Dance History is a collaboration made possible by the University of Dance and Circus Stockholm, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, ImPulsTanz Vienna International Festival, PAF.
[iii] From: “Invitation. The Swedish Dance History 2010”.
[iv] International Performance Exchange (INPEX) is a Sweden based operation working for expanded international exchange in performing arts. INPEX emphasizes the importance of differentiated international networks, in particular knowledge intensive processes, education and peer-to-peer exchange. INPEX works for creators and makers, independent of festivals and venues, in order to strengthen the productive entities in performing. INPEX is a producing agency whose aim is to expand practice and theory of the field.(2010-09-22)