City Dance - Stadttanz
Written by Walter Siegfried

Published in POIESIS Nr.4 1988 / POIESIS appears in irregular succession as a magazine from The Institute for
practical Anthropology (Cappenberg/ Westf.) published and edited by Rudolf zur Lippe and Gert Selle.

vgl. auch: Werkstatt Kooperation medialer und performativer Praktiken. in: Leeker, M (Hrg.) Maschinen, Medien, Performances. Theater an der Schnittstelle zu digitalen Welten. Seiten 205-231 Alexander-Verlag Berlin, 2001, ISBN 3-89581-053-3 mit CD-ROM: Interfaces - Interaktion - Performance von Irina Kaldrack, nach Design von Chris Ziegler

At first sight, our social situation is an open one, a situation which invites us to play. One has an enormous scope in possibilities, and it seems that everything is makable. In a certain way this is true indeed. But - and this is important - each of these possibilities just leads to a completely predictable program of actions. Indeed, we may choose whether this evening we will attend a political conference, go to a concert! go for a swim or sit in front of the television, but after this decision everything follows a stereotype pattern. The chosen situation imposes its rules, which will hardly be influenced or changed at all by our conduct. We're stuck in very complicated situations, which each time require a rigid, consistent type of conduct from us. The variety must suggest openness to us.

Because of such parallel and sequential behaviour, the inner coherence is ever more lost. At the party conference we should speak, in the concert hall we should remain silent, in the swimming pool we should be active and in front of the television we should be nibbling. We are often known from just one particular field, so that the different sides hardly interact with each other anymore at all. The cross-links break off and the necessary links between the different fields of experience fail to occur. But not only to the others we appear in such isolated units - as a driver or as a pedestrian - even in our own perception and in our own actions this isolation threatens to impose its effect. Our reactions do not originate from the unity of our personality anymore, but they depart from that particular part which corresponds with the rules that apply to that specific situation. Indeed, this belongs to the specifically human capacities but it turns out to be a problem at that particular moment when the individual parts have grown independent from each other and are not in touch with the unity of the person anymore.

This dispersion from our internal- and external world has its counterpart in the history of painting. In the first stage of the study of the perspective a construction was developed, which has been of considerable importance: a dividing construction screen that is put between the painter and the world which has to be depicted. Rudolf zur Lippe (La Geometrisation de l'Homme en Europe a l'epoque moderne. In: Cahiers Renaud Barrault. Paris 1983) has described this setting in detail and has pointed out its consequences. The construction screen only functions if the world stands still on both sides: In this way it enforces a static world and an unstirring view. The painter sits right-angled in front of his object, which appears at a particular point on the inserted screen. This particular point however, is moving, depending on the fact whether the painter observes with his right or left eye. So he closes his eyes. In order to make sure that his object always appears at the same place, the painter always has to keep the same distance from the screen. The optimal condition would be to have his head with one observing eye fixed in a chosen position in front of his object. The same effect is reached by the much more convenient solution of the fixed eye-point. However, the object of his design is not always already in the ideal position for the painter, who after all, has to develop a very specific relationship with this object. He also has to sit in a comfortable position to paint. So he has to arrange the object, he has to put it into a prescribed setting, where prescribed  means to arrange the object in such a way that it shows its right  side seen from his angle. One arranges the world which is going to be painted in such a way that the fixed eye can observe it more or less effortless, considering the fact that the eye is imbedded in the human organism. It has to be in an effortless way because this organism should not only be able to observe, but also to paint. The easiest way is to display the objects on the drawing table. They should also be motionless if possible, otherwise the composition is being disrupted. If one wants to depict something which is aiive it's best to fix it in the desired position on the table: nature morte - still life.

Of course, bringing nature to a stop is something incredibly fascinating. From ever flowing life, one moment is being picked out which in itself contains an enormous range of meaningful signs. This possibility of the random moment finds its origin in astonishment and in fear. With both phenomenons the organism stands still and at the same time is extremely accessible. Surely, affer a while it starts to move again contrary to the perspectives which are brought to a stop. These perspectives continue to be immobile and are fixated in their position.

The posture of the lay-out, the fixation and the location, which the central perspective demanded, quickly took root. What one had learned from the screen was not only used for the construction of compositions anymore, it was also applied to the real world. The construction screen - first a tool to construct the illusion of threedimensionality - was also applied to the real world, to organize this world too according to the laws of perspective . One had started to compose a nature morte  according to strict rules. In this way the world has taken over characteristics from the screen. In the past you were put into an opposite position if you were an observer, a position from where an object looked extremely well - old painting titles still show this: La Piazetta vista dal mare. At a certain point one directed oneself to the shown object, just to dedicate oneself again to roaming after this intermezzo. However, nowadays when the screen is applied as the new standard, there are hardly any of these excellent opposite-positions left anymore. Every position is an excellent position in the sense that it can be defined precisely in connection to the other positions in this constructed world. One is not lead into a posture from which one is relieved afterwards, but one is forced into a new posture without a change over. The momentarily fixation from an opposite evolves to a permanent positioning activity from all sides.

This positioning activity is illustrated clearly in the areas of the city. We are invited permanently to show a certain behaviour by architecture, traffic rules, noise and crowds. Every situation has its program. The city has become a binding score. Score in the original sense of the arrangement. Our movements are arranged. And so we have become puppets of our own construction mania. But we pretend to be hardly moved by it. We still believe to act autonomously within this construction. Its; suggestions of movement don't stir us, we have an overall view of its behavioral programs, we just don't occupy ourselves with it. We are in command of this selfmade space as if we would still be standing outside, like Durer in his controlling position, as a mighty observer with a total overview of what happens altogether. We still imagine to have time and distance, but behind our back everything has already been built and has come to an end without our agency, but also without our control.

The new order to which we have turned over seems to be more controllable than nature, which was more or less untransparent and to which one simply had to give in. Something which is self made is more familiar to us than something which exists without our being responsible for it. It's just - who can claim to have built this construction? Most of us just knock together some parts. So there are some familiar characteristics in this construction, but nobody knows anything about the effect of the construction as a whole. And that's exactly what would be interesting to know, if the parts of the construction would get entangled ever more and have a mutual influence on each other.

This new second world has originated from the wish to control nature, to make it easier to assess nature. Indeed, at first this world protected us from the wildness of nature but afterwards it began to grow rank and closed in nature and us too so much, that it threatens to choke us. This fact should be enough to shock us deeply but something else should be taken in consideration too. One can support the idea that the second world has made nature controllable - and indeed, there is not much growing anymore. But in the meantime this second world itself has become uncontrollable. It follows the rules which we have imposed on it, but it also develops its own laws and forces us to follow its rhytm. What should protect us, has developed itself into a condensed and restraining threat.

The items which originate from the human process of creation are an obstacle to us, they do obstruct us. So now we have to try to find a different attitude, an attitude which doesn't produce work, which doesn't stop things and which doesn't cut through relationships. Is there an attitude which makes it possible to respect the movement from the outside without killing our own movements? Is there a possible counterpart to perspective?

The phenomenon which clarifies human movement best, is dancing. Dance becomes the counterpart of the perspective.

When a human being joins the movements of his fellow human beings in simple dances, when he coordinates and synchronizes himself with their movements, he creates an order together with the others which he intends to keep during the time of dancing. He brings his individual movements into the play and he influences the order of the dance. He creates - together with the others - the rules of the game, which are expressed in the concerted tempo and the mutual created spacial situation of the dance. It's at that point that a time and a space which is created by humans originates. But this time-space structure is not yet closely connected to a material carrier that is independent from human beings, it's much more bound to the living creature. As soon as the dancers stop to express the rhytm, the space-time structure falls apart. So indeed it transcends the individual creatures - but at the same time it needs the individuals. So it is bound to the organisms, and thus to nature which creates this structure and carries it. In the following and modelling of the group movement the dancers build themselves a state, a shared norm, which - breaking free from the rhytm of nature - has its own space-time continuum (Walter Siegfried, Danse, Dessin, Destruction, Cahiers du Centre de Recherche Imaginaire et Creation. No.3. Universite de Savoie. Chambery 1987). However, they are not yet handed down to this space-time continuum in the same way as a material work (e.g. architecture) because they are permanently creating this continuum themselves and they keep very close in touch with it. The individual dancer has the possibility to provoke changes in the system of relationships, when he creates new rhythmical or spacial structures and thus forces the other dancers to take position, or rather to move. Either they agree with his propositions or they cling to their old pattern. In dancing, one has to relate his own movements again and again to a specific movement from outside, and when one opts for one possibility of movement, it also means that one rejects the other possibilities. Thus, dancing is to take position but not an immovable position but a flexible occupation of every position which seems to be right in relationship to the total construction. In a flexible total construction the individual has to define himself over and over again and thus he can learn about several possibilities he contains within himself. Every time he has to bring himself into the game, into an ever changing situation, and the others have to participate in these new aspects of his being.

This description - which is based on the simple forms of dancing - can only be applied partly to the contemporary party dancing. Today, the movement from outside reacts only in a limited way to the own movements of the dancers, viz. just as a partner. The music has its own metrical program that simply comes to an end without being influenced by the movements of the dancers. It's true that in between the seperate rhythmical beatings one has some free space for individually designed movements, and one as a dancer can always move against the pulse of the music. But the fact remains that the musical movement from outside doesn't let itself be influenced by the movements of the dancers. One can bring in as much of
oneself into the dance as one likes to, but no impuls from the dancers is taken in by the frozen music. One relates oneself to something which doesn't change in the least because of this relationship.

One is embedded into the music, one is also guided by the music, but the music doesn't absorb the movement impulses of the dancers anymore. The growing  autonomy of the music, the detachment from the space-time structure from its first carriers, i.e. the dancers, contains something statical in its autonomy. However, because it is not put in front of us like a picture but because it surrounds us, we are moved differently by this autonomy compared to how we are moved by a picture. In this autonomy we feel like a fish in water, in a certain way we live in a moving building which is extending more and more.All these descriptions originate from Paul Valery (Eupalinos. Paris 1944), who has occupied himself several times with the affinity between music and architecture. The repetitive moments in music, the constants, which divide the movements, have something architectural in their fixity and durability. Architecture can be considered as a crystalized movement, as a material expression of movement. In places where the frozen music corresponds to my own feeling of rhythm and dynamism, I'll feel well. But where it takes an opposite position to my own dynamism, it forces me to follow a direction which hurts me.

The frozen, crystalized music which isn't moved anymore by the movements of the inhabitants, can be traced back to the city, to that coordinating building which guides our movements. We exist and we live in the city, surrounded by the creations of people; we move inside the creations of people. The city itself is a metaphore for human creations. It has grown narrow among all those objects which we have created, and many traces to which we are turned over don't correspond with the germinated wishes for movement anymore.

In earlier days one destroyed the pressure and its material realization when it had grown too strong. Life blew up the objectification of the last centuries when it had become a burden, to quote the concepts of Nicolai Hartmann (Das Problem des geistigen Seins. Berlin und Leipzig 1933). Nowadays, this is not possible anymore because the consequences of the destruction from this present construction would be disastrous. One cannot destroy the present contructions anymore. At the very best one can still make some changes. Transformation has to take the place of destruction. To be able to participate into a transformation one has to know the transforming object very well, one has to feel close to it. Advancement, contact, transformation can be practised in a natural way in dancing. For example, a group of artists in Munich has begun not just to stroll through the city, but to design and to experience it in a dancing way. They don't just cover themselves from the outside world and they don't walk through it having blinkers on, as if the outside world does not exist. The so called city dancers don't consider themselves as just lumps of meat, only concerned with their physical extensiveness and at the very best able to work out a strategy to avoid an impending collision in case of emergency.

They experience the movements in the outside much more as an opening to a kind of
communication they comply with it and they play with it to get familiar with the phenomenon. While they associate the.mselves with the outside, they are not turned over unconsciously to it. Some of the phenomenons are uncompromising, they keep aloof from everything - as for example walls; others are boring and they provoke always the same reaction - a simple nod with the head when one steps onto the escalator. Then there are phenomenons which are slipping away from us, they can only be experienced shortly - for example the startled flight of birds we are looking at. Many of them are deceiving and they need a concentrated attention as for example cars do. When one associates oneself with all these movements and traces of movement, one learns to know their weak and their strong sides. One starts to notice where one may dance within the construction, and where it imposes its rhythm merciless.

But one does not only learn about the construction, one also learns about oneself. One experiences the different qualities of the soil and one learns to know which soil one prefers in which mood. One discovers roads with sympathetic sounds and moreover one's own sensibility for sounds. One plays with distances and learns who may approach. All this, one can practise alone and as an exercise it may be quite good.

However, playing within a group brings in decisive new elements. If several dancers comply with the same phenomenon, this phenomenon becomes the leading element of a group choreography. As a group, one abides to the law of a movement from the outside which is considered to be important by all. Then one also has to deal with the decision process among the dancers. One is not exposed to the situation as an individual anymore, one explores the situation in which the group finds itself together. If someone has discovered something which is important to him, every fellow dancer has to decide whether he wants to support it by means of his participation in it, or whether he wants to draw the attention of the group to other phenomenons. A range of different levels of cohesion from the group is being revealed. At one time the individuals are dispersed in space, and then they approach each other very closely again. At another time they are coordinating on a very high level in their opposite orientation, and then again they are not organized at all. Sometimes they are synchronized in their rhythms while at other times everyone follows his own rhytm.

The passers-by play their parts too. Normally they don't transform situations consciously into movements, they often react unremittingly to the facts. However, because the city often guides the movements unequivocally - sometimes so much that the inhabitants of this space are being danced - many dance formations spring up which can be strenghtened by the city dancers. In addition to this, the passers-by grow conscious of their behaviour. For a moment reaction becomes action. The dancing involvement of passers-by could be misinterpreted as a blunt imitation. This is not what is being meant. It's true, sometimes the city dancers work with imitation, but not to ridicule the imitator. But they do want to point out to that particular thing which both determines the imitators and the dancers. Imitation as a way of contact and as a statement about the situation which one shares together.

That's why city dancers do not dance for an audience, actually often there is not a lot to see. There is more to see for the passers-by, for an audience in a pure sense, for the people, for public life. That there's not much to see or in any case just little to see, has to do with the fact that the dancers do not create but that they refer to something. What one sees or feels as a passer-by is not the telling of a story but the revelation of something. As a passer-by one sees the effect and is instantly looking for the reason. If one finds out why the city dancers have acted exactly this way and not in another way, the statement has ended. For a moment,  passer-by and dancer have participated in the same third dimension. From the flow of daily life one is referred to something equally common, one stops for a short moment, only to be left to the casualness of today's life immediately afterwards. The dancers have disappeared again into the melting pot of passers-by. They can show up again in another part of the city if the situation demands it. So, not a place on the stage is needed to show something. In any case, the dimension which reveals itself is being strengthened because it shows how one is being affected by something. These moments are situation trouveesfor the group.

The whole city is a stage, where the dancers are wandering around until something comes up. This is not very spectacular, it is slow, it needs to develop. It lives from and with the transmissions, indeed these are just the most exciting moments - the exploration of what is affecting me, in what way it is affecting me, and how it can be shared by me with others. One pays attention to the situation, to the others, to oneself at the same time. One notices how those three domains are closely interwoven. One practises waiting, being accessible to empty moments, the courage not always to have to be productive.


Practice qround of city dancers:
(if without any particular specification, places in Munich are meant)

        28.11.86        11-13 Flaucher Island in the Isar
        11.12.86        09-13 Drainage systems (channels, reservoir)
        08.01.87        11-13 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        15.01.87        09-11 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        22.01.87        16-18 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        05.02.87        12-14 Theresienwiese (rneadow) circuit
        09.02.87        16-18 Marienplatz/ Subway
        12.02.87        13-15 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        28.05.87        18-20 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        04.06.87        09-13 Olympiaturm (tower) and terrain
        11.06.87        16-17 LeopoldstraBe (Leopold Street)
        18.06.87        19-20 Gasteig, Philharmonie, at the entrance of concert hall
        25.06.87        16-19 Just wandering around from the stairs of the Academy
        29.06.87        18-20 Fire lane through the city
        06.07.87        16-18 AdalbertstraBe and pedestrian underpass
        07.07.87        10-12 Theresienwiese (meadow) circuit
        08.07.87        09-16 Augsburg
        09.07.87        15-16 School of visual arts
        10.07.87        10-12 School of visual arts
        26.08.87        14-16 Weitra, Niederosterreich, sports hall
        27.08.87        14-16 Weitra, Niederosterreich, schoolbuilding square
        28.08.87        14-16 Weitra, Niederosterreich, old city centre
        26.09.87        Travelling to Stadl/ subway, walk
        27.09.87        Work in the country/ distances
        28.09.87        Barockkirche (church)/ Landschaft
        29.09.87        Dawn atfreeway
        12.11.87        20-22 Glypothek at Konigsplatz (King's Square)
        18.11.87        16-18 Hofgarten (court garden)
        26.11.87        16-18 Prater Island
        03.12.87        16-18 Prater Island
        10.12.87        12-14 McDonald in LeopoldstraBe
        17.12.87        12-14 University Restaurant
        03.01.88        Departure to Rome
        04.01-88        Rome
        05.01.88        Rome
        06.01.88        Rome
        07.01.88        Rome
        08.01.88        Rome

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