Rio de Janeiro
between us, a common ground
Anticipate a potential presence,
but not yet proven,
and that has not yet taken on a stable form,
maybe it should be the starting point
of any criticism to come
whose horizon is to forge a common ground.
Achille Mbembe, Brutalisme, 2020
i am not a choreographer, not a dancer, nor an actress, nor a performer, i am not European, nor Jewish, i am not rich, not poor, i am not a man, i am a woman, i am not black, i am not indian, i am not a musician, i am not a mathematician, i am not a scientist, i am not free, i am not happy, i am not sad, i am not married, i am not alone, i am alone, i am not straight, i am not lesbian, i am not a gardener, i am not recycled, i am not enthusiastic, i am not apathetic, i am not apolitical, i am, in spite of myself, racist and macho, i am not free, i am not young, i am not old, i am not a mountaineer, i am not a cyclist, i am not free. i am not, a lot of things.
voilà, the non-being now asserts itself as a fundamental part of plotting a common ground. a ground in negative. we not only define ourselves through a positive identity, constructed or affirmed, fighting for emancipation, but we also define ourselves through the incalculable number of losses which constitute the common space of contemporary societies. non-being, thus, approaches the individual and solitary vision of the failure/success that shapes us, offered by the ultra neoliberal world, where, in fact, the vast majority of people will survive in the layers of what here i call 'non-being'. this species of man deprived of humanity, or quite simply forgotten by society on the basis of his successive failures (knowing of course that the two events are always linked). but non-being is not just that. it's also the power that pushes us to abandon the Western-colonial and racist edifice of Being and which obliges us, or at least summons us to recognise an immense layer of ground composed of non-beings, hidden or denied, structurally and historically. the non-beings live in the ancient and ancestral layers, but are ever current, for centuries subalternised or exterminated, since the right to exist with dignity and in a state of reciprocity - on a common ground - is not that of the ground we have built, nor the one we walk on today, anywhere on the planet. we continue to be the society of walls, of borders, of plantations, of favelas, of apartheids, of camps, of war, of war, of war.
but on this same ground, and still always within the contours of non-being, we are also summoned, today, beyond what we could foresee, to activate the power of the Relation (Glissant, 1990). by displacing the Being as the origin and edifice of the ground on which we walk. by imagining ourselves possible merely as the fruit of an event through which we only exist by co-nascence (Mbembe, 2021).
if we fail to activate the power of the relation, of a being-being, co-nascent, we will become like the negative hands imprinted on the walls of a cave, thirty thousand years ago (Duras, 1997). the accumulation of non-beings will give us, at best, the possibility of becoming just vestiges, in a future that is still unimaginable today. this common ground of non-being is where we abandon the rejects of the body, the remains and pieces of everything that life offers us, asphyxiating, unlivable, extremely unjust, marked by a concentration of riches each time more glaring, and by the indescribable increase in passers-by, more and more precarious, or simply eliminable and easily replaced. the fact of being so disposable, completely exchangeable, and quickly, quickly, very quickly ousted, determines, on our bodies, the tracing of a ground of forces of predatory domination. to know this ground is the primary task of the body arts. without this knowledge of the subject, and without the quest to combat it, our very possibility of circulation, and therefore movement, will also be interrupted. i won't be the only one not to be a dancer, no one else will be. more people. no longer a single body. also, the fact that most of these predatory forces do not always possess stable forms, appearing as those fleeing on the line of amazing mutation processes, makes us seek a kind of knowledge attached to unstable grounds - trembling. close to the modes of feeling, crawling, falling, rising. there, where the tremor lives, lies the possibility of dancing. contrary to popular belief, dance is not in need of an upright body or firm ground. but of breakable, malleable, permeable, transferable bodies and therefore sensitive to this instability of the ground on which it can dance. so, contrary to what was once believed, a crawling critical-body today is, we can say, the highest critical-body. this crawling body of criticism is the one that best hastens anticipatory presences. by moving away, not without effort, from the confirmation of the predictable and fixed forms that criticism nourished as an intrinsic form of its imagination. today we are called upon to imagine the world differently, otherwise we will no longer be able to live in it.
it has been a long time since the world ground entered these chaotic Tout-Monde systems, trembling, as Glissant warned. but we have never felt so much, on a global scale, that we have lost all ground. that we have not been able to build a common ground which isnt that of destruction. and that, yes, we are now assigned, henceforth without ground, to the critical and aesthetic yomp. seeking to trace proposals for germinal knowledge: in the form of a germ. close to the putrefaction of this world, but also to the larval emergence of other life forms.
when the body dances all these forces, as much those of predatory domination as of the trembling and unpredictability of the Tout-Monde, they collide. theres no possibility of movement without these forces being felt, incorporated, passing through the dancing body and that of the stage, which we place or which we install there, temporarily, in an unstable way.
grrRoUNd ("solo" in Portuguese) seeks to be, or, in a way, comes face to face with these forces, with glee and terror. joy and trembling. the world covered in feathers is a scene that establishes the ground of grrRoUNd. it is the feathers of our charred birds. of our charred bodies. it is all the sorrows in the world too, reunited, there, through these so delicate black feathers. it is the uncountable deaths from the time of immemorial grounds that cross the terra brasilis, and beyond.
from ground to ground, worlds open - making them converge and coexist in the same space-time, this is also what grrRoUNd confronts. a proposal that dancers and choreographers incorporate, without diluting one ground in another, nor separating them from each other. they are all in percussive Relation, resonating the tremors where not-being or being-being is the laminated and introductory experience of building, and i would even say of anticipation, of a possible common ground.
the term solo' must be read here as a double-entendre: that of the 'solo' (ground), but also that of the solos that the dancers perform solo. in this performance, there are only solos, which is, a priori, imposed by the hygienic conditions that prevent the touching of one body with the other. but, even if they are 'untouchable', the bodies of the dancers-creators are all traversed by the percussive force which is at the base, so to say, on the very ground of the performance stage. it's a percussion made of bodies-sounds-music and words, a percussion open to inaudible sounds, made of mixed morsels of all these particles put together. this percussive power itself generates an unpredictable form of contact between everything. propagating and passing through our bodies, it echoes and resonates on all grounds. could we then speak of a common ground?
*Ana Kiffer is a writer and professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and Fluminense Federal University. Since the 1990s, she has worked on the relationships between the body and writing, on body politics and political affections in the arts and culture.