Closing Edition VIII – Ritual and Display


Summer has come to a close and, with it, we at If I Can’t Dance mark the beginning of the end of our Edition VIII – Ritual and Display programme. As we kick off the finale presentations, we are filled with gratitude for another three years of support from the Mondriaan Fund. We offer our congratulations to the other awarded institutions and, at the same time, also express our concern for many others not receiving the subsidy – the changes in this funding landscape will have ripple effects in the years to come, the consequences of which we cannot yet fully anticipate. Outside of this corner of the cultural sector, seismic shifts are also underfoot around the world, from the catastrophic end of the United States’s twenty-year ‘war on terror’ marked by the country’s hasty exit from Afghanistan and the collapse of Western presence in the region, to the political stasis in the Netherlands where the prime minister who had performatively stepped down earlier this year when the Toeslagen Affaire exposed systematic racism in his cabinet’s policy is still holding to his seat, unable to form a new government coalition. The tragic and ongoing consequences of both these situations continue to reveal themselves with each passing week.  

Amid such economic ruptures and political betrayals, nine months of vaccination programmes have nevertheless brought about a loosening of corona measures, in the Netherlands and internationally. Even as we remain critical of the new levels of bio-surveillance being normalised across the European Union’s borders (and globally), we are nonetheless very glad to be able to welcome from the United States two of our current commissions, MPA and Derrais Carter, this fall season. You’ll remember MPA and Carter, perhaps, from our letter this last March, where we tracked their sonic transmissions in Zürich (MPA’s Address), as well as in Amsterdam, Los Angeles and Berlin (Carter’s Black Revelry Quiet Storm). This fall, their projects move out in different directions, with MPA bringing her Fire for Water performance to life at Kunstfort Vijfhuizen on 15 and 16 October. Over two days at the former Amsterdam defence fortification, she explores the duality of fire as a force of both connection and destruction. In a dream-like space, she conjures different visions, oscillating between wounds and armaments, protection and oppression, spectacles and wars. Following the performances, the set is left as an installation in the Kunstfort’s exhibition space through 5 December.

Meanwhile, on 25 November, Carter joins us in Amsterdam to kick off our Performance in Residence publication releases. We begin with his Black Revelry Quiet Storm Reprise – a seven-hour marathon live-broadcasted from the Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam where he has been an off-site research resident since 2020. Over the course of an entire day, visitors are welcomed into a listening lounge at the Sandberg, and, in the evening, the Reprise concludes with the launch of Black Revelry: In Honor of ‘The Sugar Shack’, an experimental publication that takes up the LP record as a starting point for reconfiguring the haptics of the printed page. The Reprise echoes across the airwaves in Los Angeles via dublab and Berlin via reboot through December. As these reverberations come to their close, on 12 December we present Lisa Robertson’s new publication Anemones: A Simone Weil Project with a one-day event at Ellen de Bruijne Projects in Amsterdam. A part of her ongoing ‘Wide Rime’ research on troubadour poetry, in Anemones Robertson takes up her own new translation of Weil’s essay ‘What the Occitan Inspiration Consists Of’ as a starting point to think about the troubadour concept of love as a practice of political resistance in the present. The launch event takes place within De Bruijne’s gallery space in the city centre and comprises an on-site Radio Emma broadcast, an installation by Robertson’s collaborator Benny Nemer and live poetry readings. Finally, just before we leave for the holidays, our colleague and current commission Sara Giannini’s Maquillage as Meditation: Carmelo Bene and the Undead makes its appearance. Articulating her ambivalent and contradictory relationship to Italian theatre provocateur and philosopher Carmelo Bene, Giannini’s publication functions as a script for a performance that holds readers in an endless 31 October where an absent event at a ‘Palace of Melancholy’ exists and, for Giannini, cannot be escaped. 

As you might have seen by now, each project has been developing along its own timeline over these last two years, from the monthly rhythm of Carter’s radio broadcasts to Giannini’s eternal return to a single day. An attentiveness to duration is a constant throughout our programming and perhaps nowhere is this more palpable than in our final two artist commissions by Sands Murray-Wassink and Pauline Curnier Jardin. Both projects stretch our notions of performance’s temporality. Murray-Wassink’s collaborative Gift Science Archive – a performance of archiving – ran for nearly two years at the Rijksakademie with a multitude of public moments punctuating that time, as well as exhibitionary moments that began in Amsterdam at mistral in March 2021 with In Good Company (Horsepower): Materials from the Gift Science Archive, 1993 – present and continuing through the coming March 2022 in London with I Am Not American (I Have Venus Envy) at Auto Italia. With the opening of the show in London, we’re very excited to share that the archive database created throughout Murray-Wassink and collaborators’ performance becomes publicly accessible at Elsewhere, from November 2021 and January 2022, If I Can’t Dance archivist Anik Fournier and independent scholar Giulia Damiani will create a research space and dramaturgy of activities inspired by Pauline Curnier Jardin’s future feature film. Damiani and Fournier’s performance of research, entitled Bodies Extra-ordinairesdeparts from the artist’s somatic world to explore a range of thematics, from the potentials of transforming bodies in cinematic language to the stories and feminist genealogies informing Curnier Jardin’s practice. The project is developed in dialogue with Curnier Jardin’s exhibition at Index, Stockholm, and will unfold across our digital platform and the library in our Westerdok production studio.

It is with immense respect that we look back at the last years of collaborating with our commissioned artists and researchers – and all the extended ‘crews’ that participated along the way – in a period of unprecedented conditions and ordeals. That said, you may have noticed that in this communiqué we’ve broken with our usual temporality of looking back.  Instead, we wanted to look ahead and to offer a road map through our upcoming activities over the next few months. We just couldn’t help it – the prospect of being together with you during these upcoming events fills us with great excitement and gratitude, and we wanted to share. We hope you can join us at your own durational pace, however that might look or feel.

Team If I Can’t Dance

Marcel van den Berg, Frédérique Bergholtz, Anik Fournier, Sara Giannini, Megan Hoetger, and Hans Schamlé

First published: Tuesday 30 September 2021