As ArtsCross London begins, the project’s UK directors offer some of their thoughts on where the next three weeks of collaboration and exchange might lead.

Chris Bannerman writes:

I believe it was Martin Welton who first proposed that the theme should somehow refer to ‘home’. After enthusiastic responses from Beijing and Taipei, we each retreated to mull over possible formulations, searching for the one that would best articulate the inchoate sense of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the moment in London that would mesh with this moment in the project’s life.

Perhaps strangely my thoughts turned not to ‘leaving home’ but rather to 1965 and Bob Dylan’s seminal album released in that year, Bringing it all back home. What Dylan meant by this title is open to question, but in the case of ArtsCross the idea of ‘bringing it all back home’ had for me a particular and a wider relevance. The particular correlation arises simply from the fact of the three previous ArtsCross editions: Beijing in 2009, (called Danscross), Taipei in 2011, Beijing again in 2012; and now in 2013 in London, my home. Thus all of the experiences, the intensity of the rehearsals and performances, the passion of the exchanges, and the late-night problem solving with noodles, barbeques and beer – all of this was coming home to London.

The wider relevance is more difficult to articulate as it involves broad sweeps of history, and concerns the habitus, or unstated assumptions, formed through a western narrative in which the modern world, and concepts of modernity, has been constructed by Europeans who shaped the modern age. This lens, through which we view the world, is of course, out of date, but more pertinently was never accurate.

Now, ArtsCross in its small way, is assisting in a reconsideration of that world-view — bringing artists from Beijing and Taipei to London and into a dynamic and catalytic space as partners and collaborators, and acknowledging that the economic and cultural dominance that the West achieved about 300 years ago, has now lapsed — the tide has turned and the world is finding a new balance. It may not return in the immediate future to the Asian dominance that marked the millennia prior to the Industrial Revolution, but certainly the new world order is more complex, more pluralistic and features multiple modernities.

I am not certain, however, that this changing order has been grasped in the UK. I notice the looks of incomprehension when speak about the Beijing subway (underground) system with its air conditioned carriages, flat screen displays adjacent to every door, and the Wi-Fi internet access available throughout the system. This may not be the only China, but it is China, and to paraphrase the Beatles, have we noticed that the ‘lights have changed’?

The tide of western dominance that formed a flood of economic and cultural hard and soft power, coupled with empire and arrogance, has turned – now we must deal with the new realities and re-examine our narratives and our place in the world. The wave is rolling back, we are ‘bringing it all back home’ and at the same time leaving our home, our habitus, our narratives. We find ourselves “elsewhere’ and now have to make sense of that place, and our position in this rapidly shifting, new and strange dislocation. Nothing in our education, national narratives or discourses has prepared us – but to paraphrase choreographer Hofesh Schechter’s text in Political Mother: ‘where there is pressure, there is dance’.

ArtsCross London 2013: Leaving home: being elsewhere is beginning; as it unfolds so does the possibility of new exchanges, new understandings, new beginnings.


Martin Welton writes:

This weekend, choreographers and dancers from London, Taipei and Beijing meet together for the first time. At this stage, we know little about the works that will be made, but what we do know is that they will challenge our expectations.

Some of these may be cultural:

  • Just what do we expect Chinese, Taiwanese or British people to be like? What does the way they move – the shifts of beginnings, endings, transformations, lines and flows – tell us about them in general or in person?
  • Some will undoubtedly concern translations. What are the ideas, thoughts or feelings we take for granted in work, in play, and in conversation at home? Are they shared across linguistic, cultural, and artistic borders? How should we deal with difference? If correspondences are to be found, will they map easily onto one another, or will they bring further and unexpected chains of thought and feeling with them?
  • We can also expect our aesthetic expectations to be challenged. To what extent do performances reaffirm our sense of ‘how it goes’, or if they challenge them, how? At what level or stage of a creative work does innovation, experiment or self-expression make itself manifest?

As in previous instalments of ArtsCross, the choreographers and dancers will be joined at the beginning of August by a team of performance scholars who will observe the creative process. Many of this international group of academics are experienced artists in their own right, but all share a commitment to deepening understanding of how the particular conditions that attach to creative processes serve to develop specialist  ways of knowing and modes of practice. More than this however, in looking through the lens of the particular, this scholarly attention is also seeking to map out ways in which cultural and creative acts of translation trace possible routes or pathways for future collaborations. Some of these may well involve artistic production, but given the extent to which this is always freighted with political, economic, and educational concerns, what could a project like ArtsCross tell us of how we might converse, exchange and learn together to our mutual benefit?

ArtsCross London 2013 – Leaving home: being elsewhere

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