i have been developing the notion of “anti-anticipatory aesthetic” with the artist and scholar alys longley (auckland, aotearoa new zealand) and artist skye reynolds (edinburgh, scotland).
“anti-anticipatory aesthetic” names the experimental creative strategy that functions according to a principle similar to “act first, deduct later,” which–in itself–is an homage-of-sorts to Deborah Hay’s choreographic strategy “ready, fire, aim.” the aim of “anti-anticipatory aesthetic” is to put observation at the centre of the creative process instead of anticipation.
the hypothesis guiding this strategy is the following: by placing anticipation at the centre of a creative strategy, one is bound to attune their sensibilities to, and so unintentionally re-produce those aesthetic values and working habits one is already familiar with, i.e., those values one is used to and comfortable with prior to the beginning of a creative process. working with anticipation, in other words, at the centre of a creative strategy could be said to lead to the production of unoriginal material and to the reproduction instead of discovery of (new) knowledge.
it might be worth mentioning that the production of “original material” might not be my primary concern, or else might not be how i’m interested in naming our primary aim. more important than the development of original material is my/our concern with knowledge production: how can, is a question we might ask, a creative process become an opportunity for learning instead of it becoming an opportunity for confirming what we already know?
as a queer and a neuro-atypical person living in the time of the global pandemic, the climate crisis, and the long-awaited rise of the global anti-colonial movement, i find it exceedingly urgent to invest time, effort, and resource into developing the kind of methodology that will make possible the maturing and eventual widespread recognition of (norm-)critical creative practice.
a personal note a note on practice
When reflecting on the notion of anti-anticipatory aesthetic in the broader cultural context, I am consciously reflecting on my own embodied experience. At the age of 31, I am beginning to realise the way in which the observations I am making are really meant to help me personally work out why is it that I am constantly scared of not being able to sustain, i.e., find resources with which to support my ever complexifying and diversifying artistic drives, needs, wishes and wants.
Being raised a dancer in Zagreb, Salzburg, Bruxelles, and Stockholm, being raised at least in part by forward-thinking human beings, I am trying to understand why is it that I am still capable of not truly believing myself and the experience I’ve had working with Alys on this book. Working on this book has made me feel like I’m dancing in the way I haven’t felt in a whole long while. Working on this book has made it possible for me to explore the extent of my dancing that dancing alone hasn’t been capable of supporting and hasn’t been capable for a long time. This book is a dance, is an evidence of dancing, is an evidence of embodied knowledge, is more of an evidence of what it is that I know than I can argue for at the moment because it encompasses more than the intellectually affirmable. Why is it challenging to believe in those statements, even though they evidence my actual and physical and shared and shareable experience?
In a recent conversation with a friend and a colleague whom I trust and who trusts me, whose identity will remain anonymous, I talked about the challenges I was facing when arguing my practice as a dancing practice even though at the moment it tends to express itself in writing and speaking more than it does in “actual dancing,” quantitatively and formally speaking. My friend followed my argument excitedly, which was encouraging. It was not until we arrived at the end of the conversation, when our attention turned from me to them, that they smirked and decidedly concluded that; yes, sure, everything I was saying was indeed amazing and exciting. Except that at the end of the day they were the one taking morning classes and worrying about injury in the way that I am not––at the moment, they added cynically. Surely that must mean that my dance practice isn’t really a dance practice after all…
It took me a while to wrap my head around our conversation. I’ve finally arrived at the following question; why is it difficult for friends and colleagues who are interested in each other’s practices, why is it difficult for them, for us, to support each other’s trajectories in this socio-political climate? Why do we, friends and peers, instead of encouraging and inspiring each other to pave new pathways, punish each other––intellectually as well as emotionally––for not conforming to standards?
Here is what I observed:
I tend to have conversations that follow the scenario described above with friends and peers who are young professionals, who might identify as dancers exclusively, who might have struggled finding work, who might have struggled with being recognised as valuable contributors to our community. I tend to have another type of conversation that follows somewhat of an opposite scenario to the one described above in which I am indeed encouraged to proceed in my research and almost made to feel ashamed for feeling confused at times––oftentimes confusion “at my age” can be deemed evidence of a childlike naïveté. This type of conversation I tend to encounter when talking to colleagues and friends whose work has been recognised as valuable, who are economically stable, whose work is partially recognised by important institutions, and who are often ten years my senior or more.
Now, the conclusion I would like to come to is that the encouragement I sometimes get from my seniors is what I should draw from it in order to gain experience from which to gain confidence. The catch is in that this particular encouragement comes with a warning: in order to succeed, you must learn to play the game. Compromise is essential. Choosing your battles is essential. Anticipation is essential. Those are the qualities that signify maturity, that signify adulthood, that signify professional demeanour, that make you trustworthy in the eye of those who have already achieved those qualities within their own practice.
My current hypothesis is the following: what if both of these demographics are evidencing the kind of behaviour, the kind of reasoning developed over time in response to a limited access to and a systemic lack of resources?
And how do we, as individuals, create conditions necessary for development of a confident critical study when so much of our experience is conditioned by a limited access to and a systemic lack of resources?
For when resources are scarce, and we barely have enough to support those whose work affirms those same standards that justify the labour by subsidising it, why would we ever invest resources in those who challenge the standards by exploring its periphery, its margin, its transitional and transformative capacities?
STHLM 2020 10 27