In June, we were one of 28 independent dance companies chosen to participate in Reload Scholarship Programme funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes). Under the curation and dramaturgical assistance of Constanza Macras, six long-time associates of DorkyPark cooperated in the project THE IMMATERIAL to carry out research about the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.

As an immaterial threat, the crisis is global and egalitarian, but its material effects are local and asymmetrical. It materialises the social and economic structures of inequality that define our society. The crisis has shattered the democratic illusion and brought differences to the fore. How can we, as a group that has conceived its artistic practice as a medium of social change, influence society without the ritual of performance? The immaterial is a metaphor for the invisible forces that shape our lives.

Two thematic complexes are in the foreground: the question of the local and the global and the relationship between ‘others’ and ‘self.’ The current crisis of the social – as a crisis of material life aimed at survival – is confronted with an increase of the global immaterial, whereby traditions and rituals gain completely new dimensions. Starting with the connection between tradition and representation – performative, photographic, – and its relevance for the representation of the ‘other’ and one’s own identity, we question how tradition and identity change when rituals are immaterialised. How does the shift to the digital space (zoom funerals, Skype fairs, online confessions) change ritual and spiritual practices?

Tamara Saphir and Miki Shoji focus on current social dynamics that are changing the way we perform spiritual rituals worldwide.

Sivani Chinappan descends from Indian immigrants in South Africa. With reference to traditional dance styles such as Bharathanatyam, she asks whether, in an era where space and mobility are limited, local traditions can represent forms of liberation that do not reinforce ethnic-cultural boundaries but can acquire global significance as positive forms of the intangible. Can reflection on one’s own body, the ‘inner journey,’ offer abstraction from the outer limits of the crisis? Can assimilation and transformation of local practices succeed in overcoming the national or colonial borders that are currently gaining in importance again? This marks the transition to the question of the global and the local – to the question of whether the crisis divides or unites us.

The global developments are similar above all in their negative effects, e.g. in the global increase in domestic violence. To what extent does this materialise structures of toxic masculinity, violence, and sexism, and on the other hand make this privatized and invisible – especially when the victims are locked up at home with their abusers? Mandla Mathonsi and John Sithole analyse these questions. Both work through contemporary dance to manipulate martial notions of masculinity and power in traditional dances in order to transform the archaic notions of masculinity.

Fana Tshabalala asks how technologies can harness the critical or empowering effects of the intangible to the benefit of art. This means asking about the current responsibility of art and the aesthetics of crisis.


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