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CRITICAL ENDEAVOUR at
ImPulsTanz 2012

Skoĉajić Nikola to

Jardin d´Europe

Dear Jardin d´Europe,
although I’ve been doing critique for some time now, I must admit that I have a strong impedance towards evaluations. I deeply believe that critique must be more constructive then a thumb up/down actually is. For the sake of not being misunderstood, I must point out that I am not referring to the necessity of valid argumentation in court decision. I am not even referring to the critic’s responsibility towards an object of critique. That goes without saying. When I say that critique should be more constructive, I am rather literal. What I am advocating is that critique must produce, in contact with it’s object, at least as much as the object itself did. For me, that is the area in which critic’s responsibility takes place. I was often accused of instrumentalization of artworks which I criticized, because in them, I saw a platform for developing (producing) my own ideas. To paraphrase Deleuze, practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. Or to put it in other words, some walls can be pierced by practice, but there are obstacles that only theory can exceed. One thing must be a continuation of the other. I think progress should be practiced in that fashion.
For the reasons outlined, I will not simply evaluate this year’s edition of Critical Endeavour program on ImPulsTanz 2012, in which I participated as a student. I will however, try to outline a concept which I think would have been more beneficial for all participants. In doing so, I will inevitably indicate the problems of thus structured workshop – so I am sorry, if my attempt to differentiate evaluative and constructive critique, remains vague forever.
On one hand, my proposal can be seen as a retrograde one, because this year’s edition of Critical Endeavour was the last one. On the other hand, I am hoping that Jardin d´Europe will continue to show interest in critical practices, and that there will be more projects, similar in their intention, and with a somewhat changed format.
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First of all, before the workshop started, the participants (I am referring to the students) didn’t really know how will the workshop look like. Before we came to Vienna, probably none of the students actually problematized this. I know I didn’t, because the cause itself was enough information. However, although the openness gave the mentors freedom to design their lectures the way they wanted – the only thing that was left for the students is to go with it. I am sure that this does not sound like a big problem (why wouldn’t a student follow an expert). I don’t want to partially talk about mentors, or lectures/courses/exercises given by them. Some were useful, some weren’t. Some, which were useful to me, weren’t useful to others, vice versa. The obvious thing is that a group of people will necessarily be heterogeneous. But what this group did have in common, is that all of us already had a pool of interests, and a wish to work and expand those interest. What this group got, was a very dense schedule without previously defined goal. So, what I am trying to say is, that I don’t want to problematize topics chosen by the mentors or the way they were leading the workshops – but the lack of context in which those lectures took place. Precisely because there was no goal (not even to produce texts), I suggest the following.
Instead of treating the group as a group of students, I think that this project should have treated the group as a group of collaborators. One of my co-workshopers, in a casual conversation, said that she thinks that Critical Endeavour would have worked better if all of the participants came with their own individual projects, that would in some way deal with contemporary dance criticism, or contemporary dance itself. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this proposal makes perfect sense. The most obvious thing that the project would gain from such a format is production.
This year’s edition of Critical Endeavour was 17 days long, with 6 working days a week and 7 working hours a day (10am – 05pm). Evenings were obviously reserved for performances. This amount of time is not negligible. If every participant, with his/hers
application, submitted an outline of a project (which might also be a valid item in choosing participants) with which he/she would deal with in these 17 days – a context for each and every participant would be set. Also, the workshop would be able to present concrete products. Being exposed to contemporary dance in such quantity and continuity would be an unquestionable advantage. With the help of all the present mentors throughout the workshop, the results would probably be tangible. I think that it would result in desirable effects on multiple levels.
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1 Experts/mentors would be previously informed on interests of the participants of the workshop. I am not sure that any of them actually saw the applications which participants submitted. The application for the program, apart from CV, also contained author’s text concerning contemporary dance, and in it, it was possible to discern some of the interests of participants, as well as their ideological standpoints. Considering that the selection wasn’t made by the mentors, it is possible that they didn’t even have access to applications. If applicants submitted a proposal of an individual project, mentors would be obliged to read it.
2 The working space and the working hours would be transformed. As I already said, a total of more then 100 working hours in a workshop is a tremendous amount of time. I am not necessarily suggesting that working hours should be shortened (although I think there is a space for that as well), but I am suggesting a transformation of that time/space in to a more explicit working area. This year’s edition of Critical Endeavour workshop, was primarily based on lectures, and exercises given by the experts, and chosen by experts. I am repeating myself, but I have to point out once more that I don’t think that is a wrong modus operandi. The problematic aspect of it, is the lack of context i.e. the lack of a goal, the lack which passivizes students. Also, even if the group didn’t know what to expect from this workshop, I am sure that what we all thought was inevitable, was writing itself. Soon enough, we realized that there was no time for writing: 7 hours a day in an office + seeing up to 3 performances a night. What is more important, we realized that if we are not going to write, we will receive no feedback on our writing (from the experts). If every student, had an individual project to work on – I am sure that every mentor, coming from his/hers respected field, would have a thing to offer in relation to that project. The mentor who is leading the workshop (this year it was Dr. Franz Anton
Cramer), and who is present throughout all of the working days, would be able to take care of the continuity of the work. In the project that is structured like this year’s Critical Endeavour was, the students didn’t have enough time to communicate with the main mentor. His function throughout the workshop (during the time reserved for other mentors) was exhausted in no more then supervising, so: Instead of trying to figure out what kind of a program would be satisfying for a group of different people, mentors would offer their expertise to the projects designed by the students. I hope this won’t sound too radical, but instead of lack of context, I am advocating lack of previously designed content (by the mentors). Hence, the dialectics is in the following: precisely because we would subtract the autonomous time from the mentors, the students would be able to get more from them. Although I said I won’t talk about individual efforts of experts, I think that the work with Ángela Vadori, one of the mentors who worked with the group, was probably the most fruitful, due to all of the things stated above.
3 If students were working on individual projects, it would not mean that the communication, and arguments among them would be abolished, actually, it could mean more collaborative work. What can also be recognized as a lack of this year’s edition of Critical Endeavour, is not enough space for communication among the students (inside of working hours). Existence of individual projects, would result in reciprocal mentoring among participants of the workshop.
I hope that it is visible what were the lacks of Critical Endeavour from my proposal of a different format for this project.
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The fact that this year’s edition of Critical Endeavour was happening on a major contemporary dance festival, successfully justifies most of the lacks the program itself had. The festival itself, provided too much, not to be taken into consideration. There is no doubt that this year’s edition of Critical Endeavour provided great conditions for work. The point is, that the work, or production, wasn’t it’s goal. When it comes to me personally, I am highly grateful for being able to attend – mainly because (even though dance is becoming one of my principal interests), prior to this experience, I didn’t have a chance to be a vital part of a contemporary dance context.

I apologize for any possible ambiguity in my report – respectfully,

SKOĈAJIĆ NIKOLA
25th of August 2012.

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