I don’t actually want the corona virus to dominate everything, and yet I notice how it somehow manages to sneak itself into every plan, every thought, how it undermines all potential future scenarios, alters any question and emphasizes certain necessities.
An academy, a line of research, who’s fundamental base and goal is: engaging in a dialogue, that creates spaces for encounters and makes a point to merge different ideas and diverse backgrounds – what does an academy like this do, isolated in individual minds and bodies? Especially when considering how we perceive the body as a relational body, as a body that is always interacting, a social body. We want to mix different people, bring them together without necessarily knowing where they come from or what brought them here but by creating a meeting area for strangers and acquaintances.
I do not want to launch an online version of the academy because I – and I assume many other people feel the same way – am eager to actually see bodies, watch them interact, engage and negotiate with one another in a specific space. For me, an exchange of knowledge, an empathic thought and physical involvement is only possible when we pay close attention to the “in-between”, the space in which we can read and research between the lines, focus on glances, constellations, movements, energies, points of contact – especially since our main research medium is the “thinking body”, as we call it, the body that does not only actively research and experience but that also carries a tremendous amount of knowledge that we have to give a voice to.
For example, in the first two academies, we developed a training method that questions and disrupts certain norms and expectations. But how can this work when one is alone? And which rules, norms and behavior codes can, and will we dare to bring into question at this very moment? Creating queer spaces is hardly possible in these times. Now, more than ever, every movement and space must adhere to certain rules and functions, and the only place without limitations is the private sphere behind closed doors (provided no zoom meetings or other streaming sessions are taking place). Above all, currently the question of solidarity and freedom is an inextricable part of the discourse on the function and use of these spaces. (In addition, often it is not clear which rules apply, how and where they are implemented and if they even make sense.)
The pandemic and the attempt to contain it has paralyzed everything in a way, but at the same time the way people are dealing and coping with the current situation is largely overlooked.
Where do thoughts on ‘queerness’ get pushed, moved to? The subject of boundaries in a very literal sense is clearly in the foreground again. On the one hand: it is often said that the virus knows no bounds, but is that really the case? I believe that depending on the health system, the local air pollution, on physical and psychological conditions, etc., the effect of the virus is extremely different, and that the virus clearly discriminates and draws boundaries. This distinction also pertains to how differently the lockdown affects each individual within their structure – depending on a person’s place in the social fabric, home office, childcare, supporting family etc. may or may not be manageable.
Another way in which the virus undermines the concept of the academy to such an extent is how the general organization/administration in times of Corona has brought about a regression to the idea of the small family and the ‘traditional’ relationship. Whatever does not fall under the category of a stable relationship or a roommate is not relevant. And yet, these gaps could represent exactly what is important in our social structure, it could be about any individual way of life that does not always correspond to the widespread traditional image of the small family. This would include all forms of non-permanent love affairs, relationships, simultaneities; people living alone but who have close friendships (which can be just as important as the person one has sex with or brush one’s teeth or pays the taxes with). So, who falls off the grid, who is excluded from the funding or aid packages etc. and which image is propagated, is representative, and what and who does it represent? On the other hand: which bodies are being protected at all, which lives are of value. Currently, borders are being closed to protect the fragile bodies (which ones?), whereas usually, borders are being closed and neglect to protect fragile bodies seeking help (which ones?).
And how does the dance scene relate to this discussion? Don’t we need much more dance in times like these? A corporeality that is aware of its fragility, which is exactly what makes it powerful? The fragile, direct, shameless, energetically-wasteful – the world of art in general, that can teach us so much about non-economically dominated approaches and empathy.
Not to mention the issue of care, the way we work together, how we deal with bodies, disparity and equality. This topic has been and still is very prominent in the discourse of contemporary dance, so why not make use of this expertise? Because on a social level the question remains: which bodies are meant to be protected and who is responsible for making this decision? Which bodies trigger empathy in us and for what reason? The extreme and problematic restrictiveness and inequality is not only demonstrated by committees such as the Leopoldina, which by no means represents society (at least not mine) but has the powerful decision-making position to determine who is system-relevant, who gets protected and receives support. The issue is reduced to absurdity, as so often, by Trump, who after having issued his ‘instructions on killing’ by recommending the injection or ingestion of disinfectants, should actually be in prison or part of an entertainment program on social media channels and not in the White House.
Suddenly, national competition and power games do not only occur on an economical level but include crisis management and the numbers of those infected (crisis management = election campaigning). Accordingly, the question of leadership becomes even more important. Sometimes I feel as if I could hear whispering in the air: “Please lead us through the storm.” (Even by myself as I wait for decisions to be made on how to go on…)
The concept of social distancing is also interesting, as it was questioned at some point and changed into the term ‘physical distancing’ which ambiguously took the necessity of social support into account. And of course I wonder what effect all of this has on the body – for example, having to keep 1.5 meters distance to other people programs my brain to calculate centimeters instead of allowing me to follow and listen to the cues of my body and my own perception. As a result, I am disconnected even more, not only because my body is forced to become a single body (when, keeping the aspect of interactivity in mind, it actually needs other bodies so much) but because it becomes even more detached from itself and its own sensations. The 1.5 meters in between bodies becomes a no-mans-land of sorts, there is nothing there, only the possibility to ignore the space or bridge it mentally.
Physically and emotionally I feel like I’m in a waiting room situation, confronted only with myself. There are no meetings or encounters, and even the mental capacity seems to be somewhat blocked, one can feel how the topic of Corona preoccupies so many people’s minds. Since this experience is so intense and strange for most people, much more energy is going into adapting, coping, comprehending and planning and the mental space and capacity to deal with other topics has suddenly become considerably reduced.
Anna Konjertzky, May 2020 (Translation: Jen Whigham)