According to Seamus Heaney, in an interview that I came across on Youtube, in times of crisis, political crisis, the writer is there to be heard singularly not herd – part of the tribe: ‘though at moments of crisis, this is a very fine and important decision’
A different perspective on art and political engagement is offered by choreographer Keith Hennessey in a new work called Turbulence (a dance about the economy). In his Director’s Note he describes the genesis and rationale of the project:
Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine revealed how many of us have prioritized human rights issues (and identity politics) at the expense of economic injustice and more lasting structural change. I set out, over two years ago, to challenge my own ignorance about financialization, about the roots of economic turbulence, and to sharpen my understanding of extreme wealth disparity. The mythological association of capitalism to democracy to freedom must be troubled, contested, and ultimately destroyed. Ok that’s a manifesto. How can a manifesto inspire a dance?
Hennessey is too smart an artist to think of his work entirely as a political statement: ‘Without delivering a coherent critique nor a totalizing vision of resistance and reconstruction, we hope to inspire broader public engagement, discussion and action with regards to the economy, particularly its violence, corruption, and injustice.’
But there is nonetheless a clear parti pris in aspirations that ‘the mythological association of capitalism to democracy must be… destroyed’.’ My rage is always close to the surface but the bank bailouts really pissed me off.’
What interests me is that that alongside or through this engagement with economic and ecological crises (‘We work on everything at once, producing almost nothing coherent or clear…’) is an experimentation ‘in developing alternative modes of producing performance’. For Turbulence, Hennessey has invited over 10 dance artists to work collaboratively in the creation of the work, and is adding guests artists for each performance of the piece: ‘Integrating new cast members as generative collaborators for each performance, the work resists fixed or predetermined outcomes.’
This strategy is both political and aesthetic. It is also resonates with the choreographic process that I’ve initiated for Cure – a process that feels like the necessary next step after Open Niche and Tabernacle.