As we Share / Stage
Living in society with other humans and creatures and plants and objects and material and entities, it seems, there is no such thing as not relating. It is a given situation of relating and only in addition to that there is an intentional relating that can be driven and directed by individuals. The situation of relating is the social breath of being – always already happening, if we want it or not, collectively, never stopping. The relationality of being is a core essence of co-inhabiting a space, a sphere, a bubble, no matter if it´s clear or if it might be vaguely.
In consequence that means there will always be some kind of togetherness, relatedness and exchange by the nature of being, and even more when it´s about a group with shared interests and common conditions. We can assume that the relatedness increases as people share ideas, interests and convictions. If there is no not-relating, there is no not-sharing. Therefore, the question of sharing the stage could sound banal – unless we connect it with consequence, with the claims, intentions, interests that go with it and determine what it is, its direction.
If we agree that existing means being in the sharing, then we are obliged to decide (each for ourselves) if we just let it happen like a natural phenomenon that doesn´t concern us, or if we want to design it: decide about the parameters, mechanisms, conditions, goals, outcomes, side-effects, aftermath and chose where, how, with whom it should/could happen.
The stage is a space and a place as concrete as it is constantly slipping away in its multi-layered concept, in the ever so many perspectives from where we can look at and consider it, in all the facets that go along with all kinds of possible definitions – while it is so simple to just draw a line, to just imagine a situation, to just stand up and make any place a stage. Therefore, I want to suggest to always describe the idea and concept of “stage” anew, in order to keep the idea alive that it is not about finding the valid definition to work with, but about an infinite range of possibilities that we are obliged to choose from and by that choosing and deciding also marking our own position in this (admitting our wishes, personal legal terms, agenda). As for this text, I will assume as a working basis that stage is any kind of space in which someone performs for others – no matter if theses others are present or not. It is a simple outline, enabling various approaches and scenarios.
For playing through different variations of sharing, I want to propose to look at sharing not as something good, right and necessary in itself (as if it was a moral necessity, virtue, value), but as an instrument to be used, designed, decided, applied, to be describe with its attributions and to be questioned (in its use, aim, collateral effects etc.). I would hope to find the vice and virtue of sharing in the specific concept and application, instead of taking it for granted that it must be. However, this text doesn´t claim completeness, but it tries to mark positions for multiple perspectives on and an evaluation of the potential of sharing (the stage). The following “variations” are attempts to describe a few possible approaches and their implications. The chosen form of this text could be understood as an invitation to add your own variations and descriptions.
If we understand sharing the stage as a mutual interest of people (artists)
- as a specific way of coming together, coming in contact, coming closer
- as a glorious way of being together (maybe just next to each other)
- as a natural kind of (co-)existence
Then we could describe it as an inevitability, which cannot and does not need to be negotiated. A constellation, which is not about choosing or not choosing, but about acknowledging or ignoring. And since it is not an individual idea, a personal issue, it is a riskless chance to approach others. You just act out what´s there anyway (the elephant in the room). A situation just perfect to predict the future from: We already know that others will appreciate and join in and say yes to the sharing and will forgive any inadequacies or awkward behavior.
If we understand sharing the stage as a tool
- to provide something (access, presence, visibility, contact) for the people involved
- to meet an interest or a necessity of the people involved
- to get people involved who do not naturally participate in something
Then we could describe it as an opportunity that needs to be created actively. An intentional measure that needs to be directed towards something and this `something´ needs to be defined before it is acted out. Since there will be people involved who create the opportunity and people who join in later (and maybe do not or not to the same extent decide about its characteristics, qualities, rules), it is a situation of power relation, which needs to be acknowledged and addressed (by both parties involved) and integrated in the design of the opportunity.
If we understand sharing the stage as a handing over
- of material, a resource
- of access
- of something that I consider mine
Then we could describe it as an interaction that starts with a claim. This outline is as much a manifestation of property and possession as it is a first step to deal with logics of hegemony. This sharing could be a gesture of handing over sovereignty, transferring something that belongs to me and that I determine to another sphere with a different set of rules and regulations – on my own initiative, without an external force or cause. Thereby it is also marking this silent and powerful binarity of mine/yours, here/there etc. and could turn the sharing into an act of liberation.
After all, this load of responsibility that comes along with property is a heavy load to carry and cutting a part out and handing it over to someone else could make life a little lighter.
If we understand sharing the stage as a way to sustain
- a situation that we need to take care of (and improve?)
- a constellation of working (together)
- our interest in and commitment to art
Then we could describe it as a way to survive this crazy thing we´re doing – which we love, which we hate, which we want, which scares us. It is a possibility to take care of each other and to help each other finding our ways with work, market, the wish to be loved and other psycho stuff. It can turn our collaborative (and sometimes confrontative) work into a declaration of love to each other and to the art making. And by that, just as a by-product, a way to ensure that art goes on.
If we understand sharing the stage as a way to open a space
- that only comes to being through the act of sharing
- that fosters a unique kind of authorship, ownership, doing and making, presence
- that widens by sharing and can therefore also provide distance, separation, solitude
Then we could describe it as a special kind of beginning, an imagination, a motive how things start, how the first step into an empty area is made and what could come next and next and next. It is a projection, a promise to the future: how we picture being together, how we picture the space in which that could happen, how we want to define the space around us and between each other.
And this does not only apply to the ones who actually step on stage, but also to those who just perceive: the audience. This could be a sharing that is a caring invitation, an acknowledgment of another sphere being involved without taking part, the real co-existence vaguely next to each other. It needs to be considered a gift: You should know to whom it is, it should be liked by the one who receives it, it could be rejected (probably not explicitly), you should wrap it (and in some cultures it will not be unwrapped in front of you).
If we understand sharing the stage as leaving space (open, untouched)
- an unintentional, undirected sharing without control (of which we might not know if it will be accepted and used)
- leaving something untouched for someone you might not know (and you might not get to know), for an occasion you don´t anticipate
- as a chance floating in space
Then we could describe it as a sharing that is not based on doing, but on not doing, on not accessing, not giving or taking, not claiming. It would be an act without aim, conditions, expectations. A gesture that maybe stays a gesture and maybe will never be compromised by the conditions of producing. A fragile sharing, we are obliged to protect and we need to ensure that it´s not just a pause in the doing and making, that it´s not only defined by the activity before and after or its benefits for the making, but by its own rules and from there also reflects and renegotiates the economics of producing.
This sharing that might not happen turns the stage into an open space, like an open mic – but nobody will step up, in order to ensure it stays open for others. The infinite offer. An invitation to a collective not-doing. It would leave the space to itself (instead of handing it over to someone). An untouched resource, an un-impaired potential as an act of fundamental generosity and a major shift in power relations – containing all the ambiguity of desires and necessities, suspended in a fragile balance.
OUTRO / REMAINS
What if we step away from the attempt to describe the complexity of this matter in its totality and as a valid reality? What if we instead turn to a joyful idea of fiction as a tool to describe it? We describe appealing aspects, because we want them in the center of our ideas and concepts and start spinning from there. What if that fiction turns out to be real(ity) after all? What if this suggestion is redundant and just a banal theory, because that´s the way reality works anyway? It could mean that creating the stage, making the stage, taking the stage, using the stage, occupying the stage, populating the stage, leaving the stage, sharing the stage is all the same and is only defined by the narrative that we build around it.
When I write this, when you read this, when we think about this: Do you consider yourself being the one who offers sharing or the one who is receiving it? How do you imagine yourself and your own cosmos in this scenario? How does the imagination of your own position and set-up in this influence your understanding of it, of yourself and of the resulting action? Maybe it could be a desirable task to be able to shift consciously from one position to the other, according to the situation and the people around, depending on what it needs, what they need. But then what about what you need? Trust? How!
Thinking of the beginning of this text, the question of who we share with seems to be more urgent and vital than the question of what we share. How we define the relationship with others can determine and display the conditions of sharing, the limits of sharing and our own limits, the difference between moving next to each other or with each other and maybe even the difference between using or leaving a resource.
Assuming that not every sharing will include everyone (as it would be another concept and probably not sustainable) one question remains: How do we recognize that not being part of the sharing, which happens in front of us between others, is ok? How can we acknowledge a practice of sharing as a good one, while being excluded from it, while not participating in it? Or the other way around: Could we admit that we have a tendency to consider sharing a good thing as long as we participate in and benefit from it? Finding a personal answer to this question, an approach to that scenario (which might be the most common one) could reveal our true colors when it comes to sharing the stage.
this is a reflection on:
„Tischgesellschaft: How to share stage” with Antje Pfundtner in Gesellschaft (06.-10.12.2022, Kampnagel)
with Dani Brown, Claude Jansen, Eva Meyer-Keller, Mark Christoph Klee, Matilda Marina, Lea Martini, Fabrice Mazliah, Sheena McGrandles, Matthias Quabbe, Noha Ramadan, Regina Rossi, Corey Scott-Gilbert, Felizitas Stilleke, Anna Till, Charles Washington