1. visible invisibles
is it not a bad time to raise questions about the invisible people or invisible and immaterial labor? Perhaps, out of order out of sight, it’s a good time after all, and necessarily so intently looking at gender gaps and bodies of color (the “black performances on the outskirts” that Malik Gaines has written about), or at what’s missing in our blind spots and our assumptions of diversity/inclusion and uninclusion (whom do we invite to work with us)(who invites us?), at the less mentioned and the overlooked in the machinery of pre-production, rehearsal, organizational logistics, public exhibition, post-production, documentation, write up.
is now also often entangled with or equated with research), an odd subject to bring up asit promises little joy and aesthetic excitement. In my experience, organizing is the mushroom part, the matsutake part, especially in times of austerity and when you work outside the main streams.
i here speak of forest knowledge and what you learn foraging in the wilder woods, searching for weeds in disturbed environments, whether this is your practice (say, multimedia art or digital performance or bio-tech or AI/robotics, etc) or whether it is what Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing in her ethnography of commodity chains in the final era of capitalist destruction has examined so beautifully for us, providing allegories, in a section on “latent commons” – in the middle of things – addressing them as life lines and as dancing on such lines: searching has a rhythm and one follows scent and an understanding of fungal growth, textures, migratory shifting cultivation.
so then, one locates the needed or searched-for process to co-create, books rehearsal rooms and scrapes together money for the commutes, the train fares, the fabrics and materials, looking to bring the most interesting and eccentric people together, juggling schedules and impossibilities, childcare and babysitter issues always looming, traffic problems and delays, illnesses also an invisible entanglement, anger and resentment always a possibility, thus wanting to understand the mix and the quarrels that might arise, pre-emptying them (not possible), condoning our fallibilities, taking into account the gender and age gaps, the unspoken hierarchies and the mistranslations – speaking across cultural habits as well as areas of expertise, say, in dance and fashion, music and robotics, engineering and architecture, of course always finding fascinating misunderstandings, and therefore, invisibly, (repressed?) energies can push forward or thrive, at least in my experience. The girls return from the hacking/coding workshop and are hot to take on more roles, our sonic artist is transitioning and wants to be addressed by their new name, our amazing Chinese dancer has his appendix removed and cannot dance on stilts (as planned) for 6 weeks, our sponsors are invisible, salary pays for design expenses and dinners, former students volunteer to run lights and help backstage, I enjoy moving more to the background as a facilitator, but still need to climb up ladders and focus lights.
thus the lesser commons is not my primary worry; I do believe everyone feels neglected at times and overlooked, their ideas valued not equally, although we do base our dance work on collaboration. twelve or fifteen of us have to feel that all they do is significant and will be known. We don’t ask where the energies come from and how they are commons may not be good for everyone, there will be infections, inattentions and poachings, and we need to keep arguing. Entanglement indeed, thus everything is coming out. Forget the shame, or the mythology of the invisible work and humiliation of the rehearsals, it’s not that interesting. I always found rehearsals to be most revealing and exposing, thus refreshing.
Johannes Birringer, DAP-Lab, London