It’s such an enormous thing to listen, isn’t it? How often are we in sped-up, hyper-expectant dialogues post, pre, or even during performances? Artistic processes bent into production deadlines. Artistic ‘exchanges’ that sound more like a collection of rehearsed speeches. We know there can be more than that.
On the last night of the Matchpoint exchange, Cat Ruka proposed that we set up mattresses in one of the studios of HAU 3, and engage in a kind of artistic overnight Hui - or formal Maori assembly. Some of the reasons for doing this were wanting to give more time for questions that had come up, and the desire to go deeper - or somewhere special - in this particular artistic exchange.
At any moment in the night anyone of us could stand up, move to the microphone that had been set up to the side of the beds, and speak anything that was on our mind. The mattresses were pieced together like a puzzle forming one large shape in the center of the room. The lights were turned off. People spoke, slept, listened, dozed, and dreamt until the morning.
“I think in some way I've always been pissed off at Australia” - Noha Ramadan, around 3am.
I’m back in Australia for the first time in 2 years. Shortly after Matchpoint, I traveled from my home in Amsterdam, to my home in Sydney, via Cairo where my family is from. Matchpoint was described as an artistic cultural exchange between artists from the Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions, so I guess we were somehow meant to be representatives of our respective cultures. We had the expected post/neo-post/retro-post identity-politics discussions; the impossibilities of and disinterest in cultural framing, the apparent impossibility of avoiding it.
I felt like a fake. What did I think I was doing there? If cultural exchange implies the promise of both excavating and sharing difference, what could I dig up and bring to the table/studio that was specific and in any way related to where… I … am… from? Um? Anyway, the real Australian representative is Jane McKernan, not me, right? (She’s true blue, and even wore a Kangaroo suit on stage). Being from Australia. Am I? I don’t really know what that means. Shit!
I'm back in Sydney, catching up on the local news. After reading up on 2 court cases over ‘false’ claims to Aboriginal identity, I am red-eyed with the hum and drone of identity politics, anti-discriminatory legislation, political correctness, conservatism, bad journalism and the biggest problem of all: I can’t pretend I don’t understand!
I am in Australia in a way I never am in the Netherlands. Here I can practically smell the politics, the biases, and cultural complexities. To ignore them would be to choose a radical position as an ignorant aesthete, wear earplugs and jerk off. Being ‘back home’ means being unable to hide behind the experience of being a foreigner.
So now I am wondering – and I’ve been wondering about this for some time – how does proximity to cultural understanding affect my work? And what about the distance from it, the cultural confusion? Is there such a thing as culturally non-specific dance? If so, who can make it, or who (and where from) are the people who name it as such?
Maybe the kind of work I make is the work of someone engaged in cultural espionage. If I belong to the small group of artists in Matchpoint living somewhere different to where we grew up, is there something similar in our work that reflects the trans-national, Eurocentric homogenous bubble that is our geo-political identity?
I’ve become really interested in the degree to which people are in dialogue, or interdependency with their environments through their dance or performance making practices. I’m wondering what level of choice different people have about that. It seems that this is completely complicated by the necessary hyper-mobility of some artists. How much time do we spend circulating in dance-webs before we entirely abandon our locality? Sometimes I think it’s miraculous that our work is differentiated at all.
I want to know how to develop relationships with my environment(s) that are not cynical, antagonistic, or patriotic. I’m looking for something invested, something responsive, that can grow, something perhaps specific but not submissive to an idea of identity.