The dancer is 71 years old. She makes a strong impression on me, she is graceful and articulate in her body and I’m guessing also with her words, though I can’t understand them without the help of a translator. She has danced for many years and it is really inspiring to hear an account of her career. It resonates with me when she speaks about frustration with the creative process. She suggests ways of evading or overcoming that frustration, walking, moving away from it, moving through it. I am interested in people’s methods for meeting those obstacles. Time is necessary to create, she says, an abundance of time. And the stuff that we do that will never be seen, the rehearsals and training, the sweat and the tears. The attempts, the failures, the breakthroughs and the breakdowns? I appreciate the will it takes to persevere. I watch her move through the space, the movement begins in her shoulder and continues through the body, she glides and twists and turns…it is good to dance.
After the opening there is a sense of emptiness that lingers for some days. In conversations some of my peers share this with me, feeling exhausted, depleted. It is a curious thing. Collective exhaustion. Can we please be empty together? It feels supportive to share those thoughts but I am also wondering why this was the case? Was it unavoidable? Must the show go on? I am reminded of Jan Verwoert’s essay, Exhaustion and Exuberance. “We no longer work but perform”, he writes. The “we” he refers to is explained as people who are working creatively, it also includes people who are “socially engaged.” He urges us to consider the “I can’t” as a form of “protest”, or more accurately as a form of interruption in the regime of high performance. Protest is too performative for Verwoert. I read that essay last year and I still come back to it trying to figure something out. I am uncomfortable with this commentary in a sense. I am uncomfortable with the “we” that he refers to and the exclusion of different realities from the art academy context. It feels like a narrow lens to look through.
What are the assumptions that are being made about the “creative types” and by assumptions are we not also creating expectations of some standard that needs to be met? And what is driving that standard? And who is maintaining that standard? I am not dismissing the toll of engaging in a performance driven system, I am also making those choices, they feel unavoidable. But maybe they’re not?
I feel angry or maybe it’s frustration or a feeling of helplessness…I can’t explain it exactly, it’s conflicting. It’s about capitalism and divisiveness, hopelessness and perseverance, impetus and disempowerment and then a deep belly feeling of fire that wants to burn. But also even deeper it wants to pull us all close to a flame of hope and belief that we don’t need to succumb to the “performance culture” but we can persevere, as the dancer described, and we can perform again on our own terms and again revel in the process of making and loving art and keep striving to honestly and openly hear all the voices. Not just to hear them, but to listen to them.
I have an intallation upstairs in Exhibition Laboratory for the duration of the Kuvan Kevät exhibition. There are instructions in the space accompanying the installation. You are welcome to follow the instructions and see where they take you.
Cáit Ní Dhuinnín studies Time and Space Arts in Kuvataideakatemia. This blog documents her thoughts and processes during the preparatory period for the Kuvan Kevät exhibition.