The re-enchantment of the world: contemporary performance practices

We face a situation of devastation represented by three symptoms: the cancellation of the future, the utopia and the political agency. The symptom of the "post-modern" world is that of a generalized political impotence. Then, I ask myself: what is the role of art in a world of political impotence? The function of the poet (artist) has been the search for other worlds through the exploration and bending of the limits of our language/world. As the poet Audre Lorde notes, "poetry is not a luxury". Poetry is an urgent need in the nowadays world. The mythical-magic regions of the world are activated with poetry. Understanding poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. As Lorde continues, “this is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas who are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.”

If it is true that the prevailing semio-capitalist structures have caused a disconnection between the mind and the body, the subject and the narrated world. What is then the search for the contemporary dancer / choreographer / performance artist? How to deal with a body without organs through movement, rituals, repetitions? How to gesticulate a new political language through the body, through action or word; through the possibility of re-enchantment? Can corporeal artistic practices regenerate an enchanted vision of the world that would then reactivate political agency?

For this question I will address the works of the Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula, whom, through his choreographic exploration addresses the question of the re-establishment of future in such a complex context as the Democratic Republic of Congo which in the near past suffer(s)ed from exploitative Belgian colonialism, dictatorship, civil war, neo-colonial extractivist structures and harsh governmental corruption; the late Senegalese poet, philosopher and performance artist Issa Samb (Joe Ouakam) in connection to his magical narration of Dakar and his artistic exploration of a re-activation of words and objects. The performance works of the US artist David Hammons, particularly his understanding of art as a means to alter symbols, and the research and artistic practice of the South African singer and composer Neo Muyanga who explores the symbolic weight of voices and songs, with special consideration of its political attributes in the post-Apartheid social struggles.

The potency of art hides within the possibility of reconfiguring affects and frames of possibility within an established language. The power of art is its act on the symbolic sphere and there is where political action can emerge from. I would take a closer reading at Jacques Rancière’s notion of the distribution of the sensible “[…] the system of self-evident facts of sense perception that simultaneously discloses the existence of something in common and the delimitations that define the respective parts and positions within it. A distribution of the sensible therefore establishes at one and the same time something common that is shared and exclusive parts. This apportionment of parts and positions is based on a distribution of spaces, times, and forms of activity that determines the very manner in which something in common lends itself to participation and in what way various individuals have a part in this distribution.”

Key words: performance, time, imagination, enchantment, semio-capitalism, distribution of the sensible, poetry, signification, history, body.

David Hammons – Bliz-aard Ball Sale, Cooper Square, New York, 1983
David Hammons – Bliz-aard Ball Sale, Cooper Square, New York, 1983