“Dance is art, not information”

“Dance is art, not information”[1]

Yet we cannot leave out of consideration that art is a kind of medium, so its natural character is to transmit a message from the sender to the receiver. Art can be information. But it doesn’t have to be.

The message can be the dance itself (the dance re-presents the dance). Or the message can be something beyond the dance, which the dance re-presents. In this case, the question is not “What is happening?” but “What does it mean?”. The balance between presence and meaning is very unstable, and always changing. Many performances try to represent something through their own presence. Far fewer try to stay aloof from any representable meaning – in the Spring Forward festival there were none of them! Is it possible to make perfectly “clean” dance today? I am not sure.

Maybe now we have arrived in the age of “anti l’art pour l’art”. You have to read a lot to understand an exhibition. You cannot interpret a theatrical performance without considering the political surroundings. And now, within the frame of just one contemporary dance festival, you can see performances about death, eating disorders, love, time, growing old, motherhood, pain, childhood, a lonely heroine, the refugee crisis, gender identity, teamwork, freedom, catwalks, civilization, the void, illness and of course: about the role of the dance. There are messages everywhere, which influence the place of the spectator. And if there is too much message, I start to ignore it.

Robert Rauschenberg’s White paintings summarise this dilemma: they are just white canvases, but the spectators’ shadows make them alive. So what if the spectator doesn’t need permission to complete the artwork with some personal shadows? If I decide not to decode the message, but instead to find my own way into the performance? Can I just step inside a painting and take a walk to see what is behind a tree? This is not about usurping the artist’s right, but about forming a new kind of attitude as a spectator. Because behind that tree that wouldn’t exist without the painter, there may be a secret lake that wouldn’t be discovered without the spectator. The artist presents a world and gives a guide to us, but we have the choice not to accept it. You don’t need a superpower to find your own way inside, but you have to keep in mind that some artwork can be dangerous for the naïve explorer (for example I do not recommend you get lost without a guide in the world of Kuan-Hsiang Liu and Ching-Ying Chien’s Kids).

When I watched Vera Ondrašikova’s Guide, I found that the message wasn’t really interesting for me (they said everything about it in the synopsis). There was no space for my shadows. The piece didn’t let me inside, so I felt excluded. But being outside is boring, so I paid attention to the presence instead of the meaning – and fortunately the presence let me inside.

For me, the protagonist of the work became not the two selves of the man in this performance, but the origin of the light: the vanishing point of the radiant perspective of light, which acts like an inverse Big Bang. It creates the space known by us; the three dimensions which gives form to the bodies that make movement possible. From this point of view, the whole performance is a journey through the genesis of the space – and in this story, the drama of the two guys is a negligible chapter. Maybe my interpretation is very far from the original artistic conception, but the time when art was born between the artist and the artwork is long gone. Now this is a game with three players. That is why dance is art, not information.

[1] Key idea Nr. 3. from Planet Dance

Anna Dohy