Investing in a
new dance generation
in Europe
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Culture Program of the European Comission

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EUROPE: ART AND MARKET, favelas of culture (Rita Natálio)

CHAPTER 2: ART AND MARKET: favelas of culture

If  omnivorous-multishaped capitalism clearly requires a subjective plasticity without precedent , this same plasticity can reinvent its folds and resistances, it can change its strategies, it can endlessly produce escape lines, it can re-shape its margins. Also, it can recreate its opacities, its intimacies, its new pleasures, its re-enchantments, its machinal animisms, its un-confessed erotic.*




“Vertigem por um fio”, the book by the Brazilian philosopher Peter Pál Pelbart, is an essay about breaking our head against the wall while searching the gestures and the ideas that can be performed during and after the crash.  This brilliant analysis on subjectivity policies in the world of “late capitalism” (as Frederic Jameson has put  in his 1996’s remarkable book “Post-Modernism: the cultural logics of late capitalism”), is a true challenge to critical thought. Politics, economy, art and philosophy are addressed in small essays from a breathless point of view: the evidence that capitalism and biopolitics are irreversible totalities, that Capital plays the historical stunt of the “Original Sin”, truly binding and connecting all things in life, by  merging spaces that were once separate (i.e. the factory, the hospital, the family house, the supermarket) . And Peter Pal Pelbart’s work can also, by questioning the tentacles of this structure,  trigger a reflection on the novelties and ambiguities of our contemporary unstable existences, such as “webmaster disciples”, hackers, nomads, travelers, temporary-workers-lovers-fathers-mothers-artists-transvestites and yet…….......always permanent-steady-unbreakable consumers. But what is triggering all these fast and long distance trasnsformations in subjectivity?

Recently, on August 16h 2012, in a interview to the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agambem, Europe was directly put at stake in the discussion on biopolitics and bioeconomy. The philosopher confessed his concern with a continent that had moved its historical and political center of activity miles away from a relationship with Memory and History. “God-Money”, as he has put it, is producing a reality where Speed/Technology is not only boosting Productivity but also dissociating Culture from History by merging it with Economy.  An in the case of the Art field, the results are even more disastrous because  “in a society where we don’t know what to do with our pasts, Art is trapped between Cila (the museum) and Caribdis (the art market)”.

Furthermore, Agambem‘s interview and Pelbart’s book, can lead us to the point – the breathless point - where we are unable to reduce the discussion on economy to mere economical facts (because capitalism is “cultural”) , but at the same time we can easily reduce culture discussion to its economical liability (because culture is “capitalist”)

After these readings, a block of marble is sitting at my desk. This so-called “royal material” owes its existence to a fierce desire to question once again the relationship between Art and Value. In general terms, it seems to me there is always a degradation of these two terms, because there is constant pressure of value over art and vice-versa. So, the relationship between Art and Value is ethical, because it demands a choice on how to manage both parts without one annihilating the other. But the problem we face today is that the notion of Value has dismissed its political, disciplinar and symbolic power to embrace a mere material Value. So, Art is Hyper-capitalized and it produces a certain type of production that is - like our contemporaries subjectivities - unstable and nomadic, and yet a steady feeder-consumer of new images, sounds, dances, styles, vogues.

I decided thus to investigate a bit more this relationship between History and Culture Vs Capital and Culture, taking Contemporary Dance and Europe has frameworks. I asked to myself: what is happening to our History of Dance in Europe?


My first impression is that “classical” History of European Dance is an history of  conciliation between the local and the global. Our music  (Notre Musique is the name of a film of Jean Luc Godard, one of the décors of the film is an European Arts conference), our music is a mosaic that composes a pattern – an European pattern – where canonic ideas of “history” and “origins” are extracted from different geographies, narratives and economies, in order to create a general sense of belonging. So, for instance, one cannot ignore that behind a common sense of history, there is a enormous political negotiation of facts on this question:

Noverre’s “Lettres sur la Danse” are one of the most relevant documents for the History of Dance

 If we do accept this fact as valid, do we accept it because:

Hypothesis A: Noverre’s “Lettres sur la Danse” are one of the first written documents to self-reflect dance  and its autonomy as an art field through the study of ballet.

If we agree on this, maybe we can find here a common ground where ballet can be considered a fundamental technique and ballet history can be considered a fundamental discipline. And maybe will we develop our schools according this paradigm.

But if we don’t agree at first sight, maybe we could start to negotiate history in another sense

Hypothesis B:  Noverre’s “Lettres sur la Dance” is one the first documents in the History of Dance because Noverre did an enormous critique to ballet techniques of his epoch (XVIII century), questioning the techniques that were “seducing the power” . He promoted a coming back to the “nature” of movement and a return to dance practiced in the time of Louis XIV. He was concerned with the role of dance as “emotional expression”. Noverre’s work is relevant because it produces an historical rupture and it challenges an incredible autonomy of dance towards other artistic expressions.  

Maybe in this case we could start to project our dance schools in other directions, different from laboratories of ballet techniques.

This is what we normally call “interpretation” of historical facts. Interpretation is political and value-oriented. It is constructed upon the Holy Trinity of Art History:

1. Linear perspective,
2. Consolidation of Tradition/Technique,
3. Relevant Authorship/Signature of events that can provide a sense of heritage and private property 

These 3 elements construct interpretations. In this process, dance schools, author companies and critical mass (dance critics, journalists, researchers) will guarantee the transmission of knowledge and practices and they will legitimate tendencies, movements and filiations. So, for instance, France is normally considered the “cradle” of history and classical technique, while Belgium and Germany are more easily perceived as anchors of dance production and teaching. But, at the same time, notre musique is connected to European avant-gardism, so History of Dance is more than French, German or Dutch, it is “European”. And this aesthetics formulates a global vision, that is promoted by institutional powers and networks like DÉPARTS.


The problem with this first draft is that it is constructed upon an idea of origin and linearity that is, today more than ever, impracticable and out of date. If you think about today’s artists, they are most of the time replicating forms and techniques. They drift from “original” statements, they create hybrids, they quote both original and replicas of works, they appropriate visual arts works and transform them into performance, they migrate and exchange local and globally, they saturate forms with excess of references and topologies.

And also, they are inside a market:  they apply for residences in the mountains, where they will create works that can exportable to different cities (if all theaters are “black boxes”, why should they care with context?). They apply for money grants to produce choreographies for festivals that previously determinate their themes and methods of work. 

In this new structure, Beyoncé can copy Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and PARTS students can also make a suitable parody on both, because VALUE is only measurable by its material status, and status – like in Facebook - is depending on constant circulation and constant hybridation. So, to to apply a  Deleuzian-Guatarian term, we would need a much more “rhizomatic” understanding of dance, so that dance could present history and culture as a map or wide array of attractions and influences with no specific origin or genesis. And, instead of having to chose between being “modern” or to respect tradition; instead  of fitting inside a mythological perspective of culture where EUROPE is the daughter of old mothers and fathers, we would have to create a metastable dynamics, where we would need to problematize the notion of “material value”.


The problem with rhizomes and deleuzian perspectives, is that capitalism has the same exact structure as a “rhizome”: it is a everlasting complex root that can search for water miles away from home and survive. The difference is that the “rhizome” of capitalist interests doesn’t aim to generate potential and vitality. It has the same structure as a “FAVELA”. FAVELA, is in the origin, a plant mentioned by Euclides da Sousa in "Os Sertões", a classical brazilian novel. The plant “FAVELA” survives in dry environments (the semi-arid North-East region of Brasil) because its root is an imense “plateau” that can find and use water from a territory away from where it is placed.

But on our contemporary understanding, FAVELA is also the Brazilian equivalent of a shanty town, or squatter settlement, which are generally found on the edge of the city, with precarious conditions of living. So, what happened during this meaning shift?

 Going back to the very beginning of this text, how can we break our head against the wall (and let go classical perspectives on art, politics, history ) while searching the gestures and the ideas that can be performed during and after the crash? What would be the suitable “favela” structure do we want to mobilize out from our rhizomatic existences in contemporary biopolitics and bioeconomy? What is the VALUE that dance and Europe can mobilize, out from its reduction to material/capitalistic interest? What is the structure that can help us to see a re-problematization of Art and Value?

The urgency of this discussion is in the order of the day with initiatives like Truth is concrete, a 24-hour, 7-day marathon camp with 200 contributing artists, activists and theorists that will start TODAY in Graz (Austria),


I will try to develop this 3rd draft in my next chapter (CHAPTER 3: EUROPE IS ALL THERE ISN’T)





* unnoficial translation from Portuguese to English by R.Natalio