Cracking The Status Quo
"Our interest in movement is analytic”: Dana Yahalomi and her performance collective Public Movement engage with politics
In 2006, Dana Yahalomi and Omer Krieger co-founded the performative research group Public Movement. Since then, the arts collective is working internationally, at theater venues, public events or in museums and galleries. In March 2018, Dana Yahalomi taught a workshop at the conference "Acting and Pre-enacting”, curated by Florian Malzacher in the context of the Biennale Tanzausbildung at the Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin.
The relation between art and politics is vehemently debated in recent years. How does the work of Public Movement position itself within this contested field?
Our practice engages with politics in several ways. In most of our works we investigate social phenomena by looking at how politics performs itself in structures like statehood and citizenship. We try to intervene politics by creating a gap in the stagings of these phenomena, often in form of rituals, gatherings, ceremonies, etc. For example, in 2013 as part of the preparation for the Asian Art Biennial, we looked at the state choreography which designs national identification, the change of the guards that is performed hourly in front of Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. We approached the veteran honour guards and offered them a collaboration – to create a new composition of a softer, disoriented, compassionate choreography. After a long negotiation, they agreed and for the three months of the Asian Art Biennale, once every week our new choreography was staged – by the guards themselves.
In this work your background as choreographer is rather visible. Is the concept of choreography for you still relevant?
Not all of the works we do in recent years are directly connected to the body. But even "Macht Kunst Politik” for example …
… an artistically framed debate of cultural politicians from different parties held in the Düsseldorf city parliament during Impulse Theater Festival in 2016…
… was a choreographed discussion. I was orchestrating an exchange, a form of movement that is usually designed by the state. It was picked up by us in order to generate a different kind of order, a different effect or meaning within a recognisable structure. So it was related to choreography but not only in the bodily-sense of the word. Maybe that is ‘the choreographic’: that one can see the actual movements of politics appear.
Would you locate your work rather in the context of dance than visual art or theatre?
I don’t care. I am not attached to it. Would you place it there?
Well, positioning a work in the specific discourse of a certain art form creates different frictions. Especially since you work more often in visual art contexts now than in theaters.
That’s true. We recently transformed and performed an action which we originally created for the Tel Aviv Museum space in a public space festival. We barely changed the choreography but the way it was read, the questions it raised completely shifted.
Another aspect of your work is what you have called "pre-enactment”, a term that was picked up and developed further by political theorist Oliver Marchart: The artistic anticipation of a possible political event to come.
We started using this term about ten years ago for projects that held the potential to be picked up as new modes of being or acting. One of the strongest pre-enactments in this sense was "Spring in Warsaw”, where we proposed an actual, physical, scripted choreography as an alternative way of commemorating the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw. This was a different walk and ritual than the one done/performed/conducted by youth movements coming from Israel. We prepared it as a structure that could be picked up, adopted and repeated.
One of Oliver Marchart’s prime examples for a pre-enactment is a street dance that you did in 2007 in the middle of public crossroads – an idea that later was picked up by the protest movements in Israel.
Yes, and this demonstrates an element in this concept which is important for Oliver as well as for us: The idea of exercise or training for real events to come. Artistic events as rehearsals.
You draw a very clear line between your artistic work and activism. What is the essential difference?
Most structures of activism come with an agenda – a principle which Public Movement is not putting forward. As individual citizens we are involved – but our artistic interventions are something else. Ambivalence is part of our method, and I believe it’s a risk that activism does not take. On the other hand we use the body as powerful agent for solidarity, too, but we do it in the frame of art. We look into social structures and want to destabilise, criticise or create a crack in the status quo of how things are organised.
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