Philosophy

Bodies without Organs and the Waste Economy: On a Contemporary Dance Show in Leeds

After a rather long day of sensory rooms and vegan cafes in Leeds, an old acquaintance and I went to a contemporary dance show based on tensions in Leeds. The first installation of live art seemed to question the ethnic roots of genealogy through a subversion of the artistic form. Walking on apples and unravelling a scroll, within a wider game, explored the Derridean concept of play within a wider framework of structural power rules.

Yet it was the second piece that captivated my friend, and set me off to think about Bataille and the waste economy. Arts are conceived within a wider expenditure of excess – as a way to expunge surplus capital rather than reinvest it in a cycle of capitalism. For more on the role of capital, Harvey wrote an excellent book I read last week, that focussed too little on the future of capital, but contained a wonderful critique of the current place of capital within the market-based economies. His central argument was the inevitability of collapse, and a continuing concentration of capital as a ubiquitous force which transcends nationalistic boundaries. These wider social critiques, which I’ve been meaning to write about in far more depth, provided a stark backdrop for the performance in Leeds. Here we see the play of the excess being used as a critique of the system from which it emerges. The body was used as an instrument to explore the relationship between the virtual self as enacted, and the actual self as performed – and the overlaid instructions which controlled the performative form made the link between the languages of power that controlled the movement and the actual self performing provided a linguistic representation of the Deleuzian tensions being explored.

Perhaps most interesting of all was in conversation with the artist after, where we discussed the body as an assemblage, and how the art form is both constantly territorialised through the perceptions of the audience of the performative form, and deterritorialised by the virtual self being represented by the artist’s own interpretations. We briefly began to discuss the schizophrenic cartography which contemporary art can become, but this line of flight was cut off all too quickly.

Ultimately, contemporary art in this performance showed the power of a body without organs and the role of voice in the construction of a self as an assemblage.

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