Following the unprecedented lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak, performance artists and more specifically dancers were faced with the irreducible and urgent question: ‘what to do with our bodies?’ When our way of ‘being in the world’ – as our bodies verify – is considered a possible enemy that we have to constantly guard and neutralise in fear of viral dissemination, then the above question is not only philosophically valid but also a reminder that our bodies are political entities, whose project of ‘immunising’ society – often propagated as an individual responsibility or even as a matter of utmost national importance – called for a re-examination of human expressiveness and touch.
As Paul B. Preciado mentioned in his essay ‘Learning from the virus’, there are no politics that are not body politics. Though his statement was a critique of new forms of governmental power that were setting aside democratic values in the name of public health, it was quite amazing how fast our bodies were turned into invigilators – both subjects and objects in the management of the pandemic. In Greece, a country already burdened with years of economic crisis – most visible in sectors such as the public health system, education and culture – the virus has widened and deepened existing inequalities. Actors, dancers, musicians and other performing arts workers were introduced to dystopic scenarios concerning the future – and maybe the utility – of their craft: by prioritising health over aesthetic experience and any form of political dialogue, their bodies were turned into fragile links, their labour stripped of its value, reduced to something ‘temporarily unnecessary’. If performing arts are considered a useless luxury (to paraphrase Georges Bataille) then it is not necessity, but rather this notion of luxury that can help us understand the fundamental problems of our society and the ultimate goal of learning to be (in this) together.