The Future Body at Work - Journal #99 April 2019 - e-flux

2022-06-15 19:00:29 By : Ms. Catherine Chong

172 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205 USA

172 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205 USA

The Future Body at Work, 2018. Illustration by Ashiq Khondker.

The Future Body at Work is a collaboration between choreographer Kasia Wolinska and writer Frida Sandström, who between their practices wanted to develop a method for studying, learning, and making dance, philosophy, and politics—beyond specific artworks or discourses. Starting from the living body as a muscle of thought, they created a score for movement and learning, which they have been practicing across Europe. Simultaneously, they began writing about their work with the purpose of articulating the laboring body’s political history, starting in dance, viewed as the engine of this history. In this text, established concepts, names, and references from Western philosophy are deliberately replace by concepts from dance and choreography—concepts that are derived directly from the living body at work.

For a long time, the dancing body was the center of its own absence. Like a letter in an alphabet, it was used for texts written for and by somebody outside of the dance. As an alphabet of their own alienation, the dancers were the only ones to miss what was being written by the choreography of Renaissance kingdoms, organizing their bodies for the sake of reproduction. While the aesthetics of each king’s power were immortalized through performance, the dancing letters melted into air. In the era of the nascent Enlightenment, dancers were both prisoners and functionaries in the formation of Europe. In the industry of the Baroque ballet—the first format of mass production—they were not granted the possibility of feeling their own movement. A modernity emerging from imperial, colonial, and genocidal will shaped the world we have come to inherit. In such a world, the sociality of the dancing body is yet to be reclaimed. There have been several key steps toward this end, however—for example, a statement of purpose articulated by postmodern dance forerunner Anna Halprin, which includes this line: “We dance the renewal, recreation, and healing of ourselves and our world.”1

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Isadora Duncan proposed a philosophy and technique of dance that would become the foundation for her concept of the “Dancer of the Future.” She wrote and spoke, notably in a 1903 lecture in Berlin, about the emancipation of bodies and the reinvigoration of their powers. According to Duncan, the Dancer of the Future was to be a she, and she was free to proclaim herself outside of the chauvinist order and its form of storytelling. Freedom was found in dance rediscovered as a tool for self-expression, navigation, communication—and socialization. Dance wasn’t, and still isn’t, a solitary practice. For Duncan, dance was to be shared, and it was to become the language of revolution, conveyed through the radiating bodies of individuals composing an assembly. The dancer was envisioned as a force enabling radical redefinitions of modern times—a model for movement away from the cruel optimization of laboring bodies and toward a felt politics that would, ideally, enable a future for all.

The vocabulary upon which this text relies is formed through a conversation-based process. As we write in alliance, we look for words and images that might manifest relations as mobile, processual, and, eventually, emancipatory. If theory is a social practice,2 we must seek ways in which this sociality is activated when we develop ideas and put them to work.

In the centuries preceding Duncan’s announcement of the Dancer of the Future, and still to this day, dance has served to fashion and project images of monarchy, of national, gendered, racialized, and ritualized identities. But it has also demonstrated the ability to stand apart from the dominant social order, acting as both a critical theory and practice. Dance is inherently political. The dancer’s ability to feel her own movement is essential to the radiant communication that connects her with others. This feeling came with Duncan’s call for a liberation of bodies from the corset of Victorianism, which once dominated the alphabet. After the court ballet and the death of the body within fixed straight-line form and thinking, Duncan entered the stage of European and North American dance, calling for a rediscovery of our “inner landscape.” According to her, it was from within the body that all forms of movement originate. She proposed dance as the artistic expression of the feeling body manifesting itself from within and towards the outside. By dancing itself into the world, the body of a dancer becomes fully present.

To dance is to discover one’s body and bring it to its fullest potential, alongside other bodies. This transformation insists on the recognition of the body as a site of both individual and collective life, hosting multiple temporalities and identifications. A dancer “comes to represent the possibility of a self-sustaining energy, exciting itself through a reading and reiteration of its own rhythm.”3 She can uphold an activity beyond the material frames of the body, as the energy that she produces is what enables her existence. Dance is the parergon of life, interlinking living matter through movement. But throughout history, whenever the body has been reduced to serving as a framework for labor power, exploitation of the body has followed. Simultaneously, the body has been the limit of such exploitation. It has needed to stay alive to reproduce.4 Dance is not an invention or fabrication of specific tools, but the perspective from which the inherent ability of the body is activated. As Duncan reflected on the source and genesis of her movements: “I did not invent my dance, it existed before me; but it was slumbering and I awoke it.”5

Alongside Duncan’s political stance and revolutionary ambition (which were influenced by the proletarian uprising in early twentieth-century Russia), her complex system of dance theory contributed significantly to the ideological foundation of modern dance. It was built upon the emergence of emancipatory movements such as first-wave feminism, the unprecedented political turmoil of the early twentieth century (with events such as World War I and the Russian Revolution), and Nietzsche’s philosophical concepts of morality and sublimation. Duncan envisioned the eternal return of ancient dance, which had been erased from our bodily memories, oppressed by an excessive focus on appearances and royalty that had shaped the status quo. Duncan desired a more egalitarian dance, a dance for all. However, to “legitimate” her art, she had to align her dancing with the upper classes. She believed in revolution without ideology,6 and perhaps she saw herself as unbiased and ideologically “neutral.” She envisioned herself as the priestess of a new religion in which the expression of one raised arm would evoke a thousand others.

The “New Dance” that Duncan proclaimed was shaped in relation to the development of physical technologies of self-care and identity formation, celebrated by the bourgeoisie of the era. But early modern dance was not only formed alongside the ideals of physical beauty and strength; through the early decades of the twentieth century, it also counteracted an ever more apparent exploitation of the working classes and the growing popularity of eugenic solutions to the acceleration of modern racisms. Thus, Duncan’s technique and philosophy of dance must be considered a complex project of establishing the self-reflective “new body.” Through immersing itself in the world, this new body revives a dormant embodied knowledge, inheriting techniques of movement from bodies that preceded our current forms and definitions. The new body is the dancer of the future, at work in this present moment.

Duncan begins her thoughts on the dancer of the future by recalling the motion of waves:

The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever in the same lasting harmony. We do not stand on the beach and inquire of the ocean what was its movement in the past and what will be its movement in the future. We realize that the movement peculiar to its nature is eternal to its nature.7

In its wave-like energy, the fluidity of Duncan’s movement technique allowed the body to negotiate between the inner individual life and the outside collective life (culture). The continuous line of the wave symbolized eternal life—perpetual rebirth and the conquering of death. For Duncan, bodily feeling was expressed and articulated in movement, gestures that originate from the solar plexus, giving rise to dance that was to connect and situate the body in its surrounding space.

From Katsushika Hokusai’s nineteenth-century painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1829–33) to Isadora Duncan’s modernist revolution in dance practices—which were autonomous from Victorian chauvinism—the wave reoccurs in art- and history-making, marking moments of change and transformation. As a metaphor and indicator of movement, it is often used to break with the linearity of progress. It introduces a rupture within the status quo and destabilizes sacralized orders, as it suggests alternative relationalities and structures for reproduction and accumulation. At the same time, watery metaphors are used to describe inverted archives of untold stories, as horizontal alternatives to the vertical economy of the Western state, archive, and art museum. The use of such metaphors can be seen as a response to the state of affairs and the existential conditioning of what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” He argues that the “melting of solids,” once underscored by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their 1848 Communist Manifesto, has acquired a new meaning, now being “the permanent feature of modernity.”8 Thus, modernity even liquidates past controlling mechanisms, since everything “melts into air.” In this context, relying on the precarity and instability of living and of relations, the wave can allow us to grasp forms of organization of forces, meaning, and movements.

In this text, we take the wave as a paradigm of movement that not only informs the body in its singularity, but also proposes how to reimagine and remodel movement between bodies. Through the movement of the wave, we see the socio-somatic system that shapes history and the senses, spreading like a warm stream. Becoming radiant, we are active through the disposition of our somatic lives, interlaced with an entire ocean of bodily narratives, sensations, and positions. The movement is initiated at the moment when imagination sets the body in motion. What is shared between bodies is vibrant, yet intangible. It is a vast space of possible communication and relations that haven’t yet been experienced or envisioned. Due to this radiating force, inscriptions are made through and beyond the body of one’s own.

In the tradition of Western modern dance, the wave symbolizes flow: the continuous movement of rebirth that combines the movements of a dancer into a composition without a definite beginning and end. Each movement is potentially a source of another one. The dance is an outburst of the eternal and universal. As an expression of worlds, of inner landscapes released into the social tissue, the wave can be seen as a container. For it carries ideas, feelings, and aspirations. It can be a metaphor for movement within a spherical space—a space that relies on tides of movements, on a balancing of forces, on contracting and releasing. Through the introduction of the wave, the regime of the straight line, with its temporal linearity, is broken. The wave sparks from within the body and flows further into the peripheries, transgressing the boundaries of the body and reaching the outside, returning with new information and perspectives. Within the movement of the wave, we don’t just enter a specific room, we also enable this room with our presence. We are responding to its support structure while simultaneously recomposing it. This is call and response resonating on a large scale, when organization is not only a question of a specific moment, but of the future as it sparks from within the present.

Through each action that we convey as bodies, a distribution of expressions shape common forces of radiation, enabling us to fall into, and follow closely, the shared present. Dance proclaims that it belongs to the sphere of the commons, that it can constitute the wave of joint gestures, of outward movements that become means of communication. Bound to sustaining relations, the wave forms a stream of larger movements, overflowing ideas of immobility and singularity. Through this wave, the resonances of historical and future gestures are manifested. In the commons, time slips. The underlying logics of the flow organize states of experience and codes of conduct with regard to possible encounters and collisions. The “underscores”—activated support structures—of the dance space must be tested and activated accordingly, as the dialectics of the wave, continuously contracting and releasing, constitute the world with all its relations and moving subjects. Once bodies, images, and affects are mobilized in space, the gestation of new physicalities requires time. To digest, to know, to give space to bodily responses—these transport us into a temporality that stands in strong opposition to quick formulations based on ready-made discourses that sometimes might mean the world to us, and at other times, without prior experience, might instead mean nothing. But to listen and respond through the resonance of a history that takes place and takes shape, requires waiting. As Hardt and Negri write, “Revolution needs time,” and we need support structures for what we mobilize.9 We need to take responsibility for the outbursts that we unleash.

Kasia Wolinska, Dance Pilgrim Dance, 2018. Performance. Photo: M. Zakrzewski

Kasia Wolinska, Dance Pilgrim Dance, 2018. Performance. Photo: M. Zakrzewski

The space between us organizes the perception of what is there, of what becomes “public” as the events in this space mold apprehension and produce social meaning. Dance can organize space to configure or reconfigure the relationships between bodies in such an ephemeral, and public, manner.10 Choreographic thinking is a revolutionary tool for the transformation of society. Our practice takes its standpoint within, as, and through the position of the dancing body. By looking at the body and the structures of relations in space, the choreographic gaze—when amplified—can grasp structural problems and help bring relations back into flow. But to gaze like this, one must bring the body to the foreground, as that is where we reside. Our constitution is embodied and ideology is as well. Choreography is a tool for reviving and healing structures, both of the individual and of society.

Soft porous boundaries could be proposed as an affirmative reimagining of the spaces of experimentation and learning: other logics, other feelings. Such boundaries indicate a reformulation of roles in the spaces of knowledge-sharing, and subvert the ways in which we take or deny responsibility for this space. The softness of the learning container allows us to give time to arrivals and transgressions, to the unfolding of events based on the assumption that togetherness is not a given upon entering the space: it must be generated and nurtured throughout the time that we share with each other. The constitution of such spaces requires the recognition of our own default positions as well as of the structures present in the room: between bodies and between spaces. Sensible and careful recompositions of the self and the spaces that are shared enable collective speculations that test the social itself. From there, different modes of communication can emerge—be it silence, minor gestures, waving, or listening.

The choreographer proposes a variety of relations. Through listening and observing, she develops a sense of interrelations that shape the foundation of her work. Choreographic composition thus necessarily includes bodily and spatial relations, temporality, and the world of affects. As we come to understand the empowerment that comes with intentionally situated movements, we can use newly discovered bodily awareness to claim space and articulate ourselves in ways that bring us back into presence and participation.

A choir, an assembly, an ocean—a multitude in constant balancing, as formulated by Hardt and Negri: “an open and expansive network in which differences can be expressed freely and equally, a network that provides the means of encounter so that we can work and live in common.”11 Through its endlessly transformable composition, dance allows us to speculate shifts and relations into social tissues. The imagination becomes a fundamental premise for initiating movement. At the moment we imagine it, the space shifts, the body starts to move and rediscovers techniques and technologies of commoning.

Dance Pilgrim Dance, 2017. Illustration by Ashiq Khondker.

According to philosopher Bojana Kunst, dance today is deeply related to the political need for the development of means of mobilization. At the center of many performances is, in Kunst’s words, exactly the interrelated, mediated, and social aspect of movement:

Through dance, we can challenge the ways in which bodies assemble and participate, since dance takes place precisely through the becoming of an assembly: it happens through the becoming of the many and not as a representation of the many.12

The body remembers through the inscriptions made upon it. Its inner composition absorbs external matter as much as it holds on to underscores that enable self-expression to be grounded in the body and to leak out into the world, mixing with its surroundings. The idea of an underscore was developed within improvisational dance practices in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a method for organizing and facilitating (underscoring) dance in spherical space, with the aim of enabling a collective dancing and compositional experimentation. The sphere refers not only to the nonlinear emergence of dance in the spaces of improvisation, but also to the timing and the frames of the body. The sphere contains the tides within the body and the tides between bodies. It constitutes a responsive memory through diverse layers of movements accumulated within and articulated outwards. In such spherical compositions, underscores can be understood as internal and underlying structures, protocols that enable individual and group explorations that include “kinesthetic and compositional concerns,” and that give space to a variety of exchanges, assemblages, and forms of expression.13 We wish to appropriate this concept to speak about the under-structures of dance spaces, but also to describe the protocols that are fundamental to the functioning of the body and the constitution of the social.

The court ballet originated among the European ruling classes of the sixteenth century. It was a politically motivated project that aimed at the organizing (choreographing) of movement in line with the desired representation of the prevailing regime. As the choir for the narrative of the ruler, the dancers were immobilized as letters in a mute alphabet. This immobility must be understood as a reflection of the form of power in which the reigning body absorbs the bodies of the ruled—an embodiment which is famously pictured on the cover of Thomas Hobbes’s 1651 text Leviathan. It shows the face of the sovereign, covered by several smaller faces, bodies: the population. In front of him lies the homeland. It is empty, seemingly a no-man’s-land. But this is the land of the sovereign. He is the only one to speak. Early modern dance stems from the desire for the emancipation of the body and imagination from such powers.

As discussed above, Duncan’s idea of the dancer’s sovereign body became a seed of empowerment and supposed democratization in dance. Dancing was to enable a future composed of consciously situated movements. However, as Mark Franko argues in his Dancing Modernism / Performing Politics, Duncan’s attempts to establish a radiant body failed to result in a performance capable of articulating the social reality of her times. She was accused of detaching her revolutionary claims from politics, and in doing so, of failing to fully grasp the origins of the oppression she was seeking to undo. Duncan was not only shaped by, but for a long time she also depended on the approval of the bourgeoisie—her primary audience and the sponsor of her “free” art.

We relayed at the outset that the radical transformation of Duncan’s dancing technique, as well as its “content” and purpose, was inspired in particular by the Russian Revolution of 1917. Lenin himself recognized the revolutionary potential of Duncan’s dancing, and upon an invitation from the Soviet diplomat Leonid Krasin, she moved to Russia to establish a school for working-class children. The Russian years changed Duncan’s understanding of dance as a collective means, but not of politics as a collective matter. Beyond her gospel of radiation and of the becoming of many, she was attempting to emancipate herself from politics rather than to establish a subjectivity that would fulfill such promises. The conceptual framework of her work remains, however, an important resource for politicizing the dancing body and arguing for its porous presence within and beyond the arts. When actualizing the legacy of Duncan, we also attempt to recompose it.

We therefore want to turn to the technical concepts of contraction and release, which, as introduced in Western modern dance, approach the body through the depth of its physical layering. Thus, the inner world of the body is mobilized in dance, so that it can be manifested: released. The memory and knowledge of the body are fundamental both to dancing and to the reception of dance. This is also why dancing is never a solitary practice. It continuously addresses the outside of the dancing body. Through contractions we recognize the history of bodily transformations that are inscribed upon us, although they may precede our current form. The dancing body is continuously recomposing the history that it shapes and inhabits. In its circular existence, a linear, Western understanding of time is bent, making both past and future present in the body at work as a living container. We understand this container as an inherently discursive space in continuous motion. The body is a radiating force of interdependencies that constitute movements, ruptures, and openings. In the act of dancing we stir up what we contain, and the sediments around us start to resonate with surrounding support structures. In the moments of such resonance, the sociality of the body is at work.14

Contraction and release are tools that allow us to address the dynamism of spaces that we constitute as bodies and as communities. We respond to our actions as they expand beyond ourselves. The spectrum of response is unpredictable. As bodies, we acknowledge that our presence always intervenes in the place that we enter. Organizing a space for life and labor requires that we engage, beyond language, with our cognitive and cellular processes of experience, so they can inform the space. Linear logics of cause and consequence are replaced by continuous responses. Dance takes place, is situated and situates through moments of slippage. It cannot be preconfigured: history and future are written with and through dance.

We seek to establish communication and learning processes that affirm the living. The inherent sociality of the body leads us to discover common futures based on the somatically initiated understanding of how our subjectivities are constituted and constrained. Through the Future Body at Work, we shape the present through the layers that the body entails. This is the radiant body, arriving at its liveness and full expression by communicating with and listening to its environment. What visions of the future can be enacted by such a body? And where is it located?

The solar plexus is a bodily engine capable of multivalent expressions. In its generative and receptive nature, it sets our worlds in motion and mobilizes the multitude, undoing the dichotomies of internal and external, productive and receptive, material and immaterial. Dancing from within such a location demands a commitment to the durational process of attunement. As much as our dancing is not an expression of an isolated solitary subject, the future that we dance ourselves into must be shared and commoned. During the Renaissance, a series of dance outbursts that occurred all over Europe were named “Dancing Plagues.” As ever changing throngs of dancing bodies, the Plague entered the public space of medieval cities. It blurred the lines between living and dying and recomposed the present formation of the public, inverting the era’s logics and spectrum of possible expressions. These outbursts, these non-choreographed movements of the many, were taking place as well as making space for those that were not granted full power over their lives, nor access to public resources. With movements beyond the conceptual synchronization of the reigning aesthetics and politics, the dancers formed a non-readable mass, interlinking individual presence with the space of the group.

The “sickness” of the body was its dancing. But, at the same time, dance was to be a remedy for it. To exhaust one’s inner impulses was to bring an end to the dancing plague. Yet, the space grew larger as the dance spread between more and more bodies. The outburst was carried on beyond the lives of its dancers—the throng didn’t stop despite the deaths of many. It went on for weeks. And so it does today. As long as there is life, there is a need to make space for its movement. We want to understand this recomposition of space as a choreographic proposal of space-making where feeling bodies burst beyond their representations, claiming a common need for the space of appearance. This is a continuing collective dance, shaping an assembly beyond a specific time or action. Opposed to the labelling of mass movement as outside the norm, the proposal of the Future Body at Work develops through healing and caring. Today and historically, infrastructures are built to tame these movements and reduce bodily expressions according to paradigms of efficiency and obedience. Through the redistribution of public access, the moving body enables a site of resistance, reconfiguring hegemonic discourses and traditional framings of living matter.

Historically speaking, art has a double function: it emerges from life itself but also represents it, conceptualizes and disembodies it through institutional and economic frameworks. The institutionalization of dance has developed hand in hand with ruling structures. Similar to what is inscribed onto the body at work or in war, through city architecture, and the organization of the nation-state, dance enables control and submission. Yet the very same methods used to control the body can be used for the opposite. This is where contraction and release need to be understood on a larger scale. In contraction, we practice refusal, fortitude, and muscular tension. Through release, we respond by opening up. Pressure is let go, flowing, waving.

Through the wave, a new school of dance is envisioned. In its seemingly dispersed form, lacking the institutional ground and constrictions of traditionally regulated systems of knowing, it tries to leave its trace, sparking soft transformation. The new school of dance is an underscore for moving together, for the constitution of the social sphere in which we become many. It is a way of practicing theory, of testing, of negotiation. It asks us to base our statements and positions on the process of molding the plurality of the social sphere we inhabit as a multitude, the process of navigating through it and simultaneously recomposing it. Just as dance cannot be reduced to the outburst of a monadic, highly individualized self, our ideas are not formulations based solely on solitary experiences. We believe that they rather spark from the moment of our entanglement with the world of others, and that the waves of thinking inform each other, giving rise to formulations that can accumulate within this new school of dance.

By weaving stories of dancing bodies, reviving dances, and stirring up the fleshy archives, we want to reclaim dance’s space in the sphere of our sociopolitical urgency. The rave, the radiant body, and the cellular trance—through which we come together to fill space with our imaginations, movements, and smells—can be tools and methods for reflection that are embedded deeply in how we relate to the world, and how we can reconnect through registers of knowing and communicating that do not belong solely to language. We need heterogeneous spaces of knowledge-sharing in which everyone is invited to step in and dance outside of predetermining notions of ability or expertise. We are all bodies, and through that virtue we are all ultimately equal. But equality does not mean sameness. Neither does it assume that we all have the same access to shared spaces. Through an ongoing practice of scored and informed dance gatherings, we want to bring attention to how space is distributed and how we constitute it with others. In between words and movements, our social conditioning is put to work. We bring attention to how space is transformed through individual decisions and how listening can precede acting, how contraction gives space for release.

Lea Martini, in collaboration with Lisen Ellard and Tea Harryson, Tanzplage, 2018 (2014). Photo: Vlad Brăteanu/Norbergfestival.

Lea Martini, in collaboration with Lisen Ellard and Tea Harryson, Tanzplage, 2018 (2014). Photo: Vlad Brăteanu/Norbergfestival.

We propose an understanding of dance as a specific art form and as a form of expression: as language and as a cognitive apparatus. Listening beyond the Western discourse of dance theory that dominates the context in which this text is written, we want to unpack the phenomena of dance as something inherently bound to the social. Through this sociality, we interpret the body as an articulating and listening agent: as both source of, and place for, the formation of knowledge.

The body’s capacity to resist, endure, and transform gives rise to dance in its autonomous form, relying on both historical actions and future endeavors. Dance’s autonomy relies on feeling in the present moment, beyond binaries of expression and reception. Such feeling allows the body to recognize its inner timing, its structural complexity and inherent sociality. Dance engenders the spaces of familiarity and discovery, of remembering, of processing and of imagination. It also brings forth a sense of responsibility and possibility in the recomposition of what makes sense.

We want to highlight the responsive and celebratory character of dance, understood through its disruptive and affirming potential. Reading it through moments of collective assembly and somatic formulations of collective struggles, we locate such processes in the body as an autonomous, self-reflective system of material organization—but also as a place of encounter, of intersections, of entanglement. The body contains an active assembly of life informed by multiple temporalities. Our positions in the world and our relationships with ourselves and others are defined and transformed from within the radiant body. This is why a revolution of consciousness must be initiated through the body, to further affect all relationships among living matter. To enable an accumulation of common experiences, embodied knowledge must be recognized as a shared sensation by a multitude of bodies, historically and politically informed by the presence of others. The radiant body enters a discursive space: a canon, a conversation, a public square.

Dance is a space of mobility that enables a recognition of the present beyond a fixation on concepts, numbers, and norms. Through dance we discover the structures and parts of the body that we might never have felt before. Such bodily excavations are full of surprises. When we shake the body, when we feel the whole structure of it moving, recomposing, and falling back into place, we discover the urgency of such movement, we uncover the vitality of flesh, of our physicality that craves our attention. From layers of bodily composition, stories, memories, feelings, and thoughts are activated. Dance carries the promise of new worlds and structures of signification that overcome immobilizing regimes of visibility and ideological appropriations.

If the future is within us, our bodies are engines for the present. The body’s history is a network of stories about shaping: the constitution and subjugation of the body to and through regimes and ideologies. The body is the site of the unfolding of ideology, through aesthetics, norms, and the gendering and racialization of the flesh. The body has remained at work throughout the development of civilization: mediated, extended, and organized by multiple technologies and philosophies. In order to bring the history of dance back to visibility, we encourage a continued reflection on the historical, present, and future conditions of the body at work. By proposing a vocabulary developed from within the discipline of dance, we drift away from the prevailing systems of knowing that render the body absent, obscure, or singular. If the aspects of the world that we nurture into the future are shaped by how we understand and tell the past,15 our inheritances are manifested through the stories we tell—stories that transform us and our communities and that become a foundation for our future becoming.

This is the dance work and the framework, reactivating moments in dance history that refer to us, the future bodies. By analyzing these gestures, the autonomy of the body at work is investigated. Through ongoing research into the interdependence of moving, talking, and writing, we study what lies in between bodies and words, locating discourse within the feeling body and the sociality that it carries. We see an emancipatory and reformatory potential in dancing and choreographing as they create space for testing ideas and movements. In dancing, we dissolve the immobility of our past, we reformulate fixed realities and identities. As functionaries of global political and production systems, we must be attentive to how the present frames of living shape us. Dancing makes space for such shaping to be recognized and recomposed. Beyond oppressive modelling that attempts to give space to all seemingly “absent” bodies, we dissent, intervene, and revolt. We dance to join this revolution.16 The Future Body is at work.

“Don’t let them tame you.”17

bell hooks, “Theory as Liberatory Practice,” Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 4, no. (1991): 5.

Andrew Hewitt, Social Choreography: Ideology as Performance in Dance and Everyday Movement (Duke University Press, 2005), 45.

Silvia Federici, “In Praise of the Dancing Body,” Gods & Radicals, 2016 →.

Isadora Duncan, Écrits sur la Danse (Grenier, 1927).

Ann Daly, Done into Dance: Isadora Duncan in America (Wesleyan University Press, 1995), 197.

Isadora Duncan, “The Dancer of the Future,” in What is Dance?: Readings in Theory and Criticism, eds. Roger Copeland and Marshall Cohen (Oxford University Press, 1993), 262.

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Polity Press, 2000), 6.

“Moreover, and this is the greater obstacle, the people are not yet ready to rule themselves. The revolution needs time.” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Assembly (Oxford University Press, 2017), 5.

Mark Franko, Dancing Modernism / Performing Politics (Indiana University Press, 1995), 12.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, The Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (Penguin Press, 2014), xiv.

Bojana Kunst, The Participatory Politics of Dance (German Dance Platform, 2014).

Nancy Stark Smith, “The Underscore” →.

Bojana Cvejić, “How Open Are You Open? Pre-Sentiments, Pre-Conceptions, Pro-Jections,” Sarma, 2004 →.

See Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death and Generations, eds. Deborah Bird Rose, Thom van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew (Columbia University Press, 2019), 202.

Emma Goldman, Living My Life, 1931 →.

Isadora Duncan, from a speech she delivered after a dance performance she gave in Boston in 1922. Duncan was not well received by audiences in her homeland due to her communist sympathies. These words were shouted by a bare-chested Duncan to the audience leaving the theater. The infamous show resulted in Duncan being banned from performing in Boston under the city’s decency law.

The Future Body at Work is an interdisciplinary score-based study practice initiated and run by Frida Sandström and Kasia Wolinska. It mobilizes ideas, theories, and practices centered on the body at work. Affirming the living body, a revolution of consciousness is initiated and the inherent sociality of the dancing body is reclaimed.

Kasia Wolinska is a dancer, choreographer, and writer based in Berlin. She runs a blog about dance and politics:

Frida Sandström is a writer and critic based in Stockholm. She is a contributing editor at Paletten Art Journal and a visiting lecturer in Contemporary Art Theory at Umeå Academy of Fine Arts and at Gerlesborg School of Arts. Together with dancer and writer Kasia Wolinská, she runs the score-based study practice “The Future Body at Work.”

172 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205 USA

172 Classon Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205 USA

Thank you for subscribing to e-flux

Feel free to subscribe to additional content from the e-flux platform.