Here I come
The winds are blowing every morning
Just to do her hair now
Because she cares you all
Her day oh wouldn't be right
Without her make up
She's never had a make up
La da dee la dee da
La da dee la dee da
La da dee la dee da
La da dee la dee da
La da dee la dee da
La da dee la dee da
- Crystal Waters, Gypsy Woman ( She’s Homeless), 1991.
The video stream of the Hardcore Internet by and with Julia Plawgo had its premiere on the 30th of April 2021. It was framed as an open rehearsal to which we could virtually come in and watch a 15 minute video crowning a residency at ada Studio in Berlin.
I met Julia Plawgo when she was attending an audition to HZT Berlin (successfully) and, after she has left Poland to do dance and join what some people in Berlin refer to as Polish Mafia, I have worked with her and was audience to and an enthusiastic supporter of her own work within choreography but also, as with Hardcore Internet, video art.
Moving from the embodied experience to an online living was what we all experienced and talked about for the last year and a half, and it seems to be the core tension and simultaneously a space of opportunity which Julia has been testing - rehearsing - putting at work for the four weeks of her residency, and also before that, e.g. in her previous work
I wanted to show you the
world, but I only had 2GB
which she presented in 2019 in the frame of the Introducing program of the Performing Arts Festival Berlin.
Hardcore Internet is a choreographic examination of the other, radical realities which could be proposed by a dancing body inhabiting both online and offline spaces. I certainly agree with Julia that there is possibility and pleasure! in constituting a world of one’s own and conceiving of such a project through choreographic means and a bodymind as both earthly and extraterrestrial vehicle. Dancing is practiced within a space that may look like ada Studio to me but for Julia it might be a completely other reality which in fact engenders a hardcore internet dancing. As I cannot be completely sure what it is that drives her dance I am settled to witness a thinking-dancing body unfolding a space for me and others through a screen. It follows the rules which I might project exist but the reality, as mentioned before, is an uncertain territory and even more so in the digital age.
In the video stream the portals and perspectives are overlaid, dancing body looped in pulsation, shape shifting as our eyes are distracted by a somewhat dire landscape of plastic flowers and blinking lights. Materiality of the workspace is revealed as the camera follows the cables and shows us the corners of the studio in their complete lack of glamour. What I take for a plastic foil mountain melts into the dancefloor and gives rise to the impossible growth. A dancer’s body will eventually join the dark landscape but before that it would demarcate spaces and paths, it will transform itself and bend to confuse the watcher’s eye while maintaining the repetitive rhythm and bouncing quality. There are creatures and forms arising from the simple patterns of movement and dancing that allows the body to both acquire geometric form and spatial dynamism as well as dilute into a slowly progressing matter of undefined (alien?) origin. Arms of a dancer in the space proposed by Julia can cut and swing across realities or they can disappear in the torso, get stuck to the thighs or the floor. The possibility of play is limitless within the proposition of Hardcore Internet yet it is an insistence and recurrence of forms and motions that define the space for it, that gave it a shape and a logic. All variations of movement and bodily partitions are rooted in the simple action of walking, of moving across and through by recalling qualities of raving and video gaming.
What is worth appreciation is not only the precision and high quality of the movement proposal but how the research process and recorded material were composed into a video of Hardcore Internet. With a clean and well curated entanglement of sound, movement and object based installation its choreographic frame articulates, to me, precisely a certain condition of the body living in the digital era and it points not only to the playfulness of dancing but to the irrevocable potential and power of a body moving and generating knowledge that ultimately resists the disembodied future of the online existence.
And you know
I'm outta love
Set me free
(Set me free, yeah)
And let me out this misery
(Oh, let me out this misery)
Show me the way to live my life again
You can't handle me
(Said) I'm outta love
(I'm outta love) Can't you see
Baby, that you gotta set me free
- Anastacia, I’m outta love, 2000.
In her biographical note, Julia Plawgo proposes dance and choreography as a strategy for survival and I would like to see it also as an attempt to overwrite a digital absence with a body moving from within the experience of a generation born to be on the Internet. As much as dancing has been spreading well through apps, virals and youtubes the actual condition of the dancing body and the status of the living body itself have been deteriorating under the digitally enhanced capitalism.
Millennial choreographer has an uneasy task to handle. Not only innovation, connection and mediation are captured by the contemporary art market with its curatorial themes, accessibility planning and obligatory coolness of proposals, but the competition and an actual status of art making (increasingly transformed into luxury commodity than a social, communicative, non-conformist occupation) has transformed the practice of dance. Here another inter-generational question comes into play as many deciding parties - meaning money and visibility distributors - seem to be blind to the problems of emerging artists who will never be able to set off their careers in the way their teachers did. Julia Plawgo stands as an example of an artist largely overlooked by the Berlin funding system, but truth be told, she is, sadly, one of many. After graduating HZT Berlin she has been working for and with Ania Nowak, Ola Maciejewska, Cecile Bally, Deufert and Plischke, Rosalind Crisp, Frederic Gies but herself struggled to obtain grants for her own choreographic work. And of course, myself being an immigrant dancer and choreographer in the German capital, I am well aware that the road to so called success and the mythical ‘emergence’ as an artist is a long and winding one, and for many it will never lead to the land of milk and honey but rather to the bitter realisation that art making is profitable only for a few. And profitability is just one of the aspects of working in dance, as no one really becomes a dancer in hope of earning a fortune, but when even modest expectations of sustaining an artistic practice, having space for work and being paid for it are rendered luxury and privilege, we must talk about the systemic problem that cannot be solved by the artists themselves but only in the concerted reformatory effort of all the actors of the scene.
The pilot project Dance Residency Program 2020/21 was launched in June 2020 and will continue till December 2021. Installed as a consequence of 2018 Round Table Dance Berlin, the program is meant to strengthen the decentralized free dance scene of Berlin and it enabled 9 institutions to develop their residency programs dedicated explicitly to Berlin based artists. Amongst the spaces granted funds were e.g. ada Studio, Radialsystem, Tanzfabrik, Lake Studios, and each could propose their own framing and conditions for the residency and selection process. As Gabi Beier, curator of ada Studio and an avid cultural activist in Berlin dance, has told me, she refused the thematization of a residency in order to rather open up the selection and base it on a simple criteria - emerging artists in the need of support. This minimum demand is characteristic of ada Studio being one of the most egalitarian spaces for dance research and presentation in Berlin. Plenty of newcomers and old-timers have shown their works in ada and the politics of the space has been always aligned with the needs of the working people of the scene rather than with aesthetics and discourses projected from the top of cultural production to the bottoms of artistic labor.
Each artist or group invited for a residency at ada Studio received 2000 Euros fee and several hundred euros of production money allowing e.g. modest scenography or dramaturgical consultation. For the period of four weeks they were invited to examine their research methodologies and open the process to the audience and peers. The underlying intention behind the curatorial frame of the ‘reinkommen on screen’ was to offer support to artists who produce work of a high artistic and conceptual quality yet do not receive enough visibility in the scene or struggle to be included in the production schemes.
I hope to not reveal too much here when I will repeat after Gabi Beier, that Julia Plawgo has submitted the most outstanding application for the residency program and it is a wonder to Gabi and me that she cannot find regular support in the city which has educated her as a dancer and choreographer. This case only proves the pressing need for more structural development and expansion of the free dance scene in Berlin so it can accommodate the talent and potential of the artists living and working here. Residency Program together with Tanzpraxis aim at direct support of Berlin based artists and should as such become a fundamental structure for the development of the Berlin scene in its decentralized, non-commercial, practice based orientation. I would like to appeal to artists, cultural producers, politicians and audiences to not underestimate the significance of the Round Table Dance Berlin and to continue the advocacy for its programs as they carry a promise of a more just, sustainable and diverse dance scene in the city.
P.S. You can see Hardcore Internet live in November as a part of "NAH DRAN extended: MISSED PIECES" at ada Studio Berlin.