With his dance performance "My private bio-politics", Asentić gained international recognition. The performance explores the relation between hegemonic structures of the Western European art market and the situation of Eastern European artists.
It should be considered as a textual version of the performance, suitable to the printed format of a theoretical volume. Thus, this is neither a text about the performance nor its description but a performance itself, a performance on paper.
Our contribution to the book Dance, Politics, and Co-Immunity should be considered as a textual version of the performance, suitable to the printed format of a theoretical volume. Thus, this is neither a text about the performance nor its description but a performance itself, a performance on paper.
You open the page.
There are credits:
Author and performer: Saša Asentić
Assistant: Olivera Kovacević-Crnjanski
Theoretical support and dramaturgy: Ana Vujanović
Duration: 50 min
The performance is part of the research-artistic project Indigo Dance.
Producer: Per.Art, Novi Sad
The performance was made in co-production with the Centre national de la danse – Paris, research in residency (Theorem Dance residencies), and it was prepared within the trainings of practical dramaturgy THe FaMa in Belgrade and Dubrovnik. It was supported by DanceWEB (with the support of the Cultural Programme 2000 of the European Union within the frame of danceWEB Europe).
Then you open the next double-page.
You enter the hall. Working lights. A male performer in trousers and T-shirt is already on the stage. The stage is about 11 x 8 m. On the left page you can see a square of mostly paper material on the floor. Among them you can recognize some books, a video camera, a lot of documents, one chair, an unrecognizable black boxlike object, and along the diagonal of the square several ceramic pots. On the right there is another square; it is a “ring”, marked by very thin white thread, some 10 cm from the ground. In the right back corner of the “ring”, there is a goblin on gantry; it depicts the figure of a female dancer. The performer is preoccupied with the needlework.
You are looking at him … more than browsing the pages set design. At one moment you finally calm.
Now I will perform My Private Bio-politics for the 34th time!
It is part of “Indigo Dance” project.
The premiere of this performance was on the 11th February, three years ago. It was in the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad on the stage called Hinterbühne.
In its first year, the work was presented at various festivals and art centres in Eastern and Western Europe.
While re-thinking this period, I have realized that the performance started to exhaust its initial concept through the regular circulation within the contemporary dance system.
On 11th February two years ago in the Serbian National Theatre, on the 1st anniversary of this performance, I performed the special jubilee edition of My private bio-politics, and it was the last time that I performed it in its original and integral version.
That night, after the jubilee, I decided to change this performance:
from a work-in-progress
into a work-in-regress!
Which means that in its second year, the performance was gradually canceled through its regression. Every time I was invited to perform it I performed less and less of the live event, replacing its parts with their video documentation.
Finally last year, on the 2nd anniversary I performed it in Belgrade without any performance. The audience watched only the video.
In Dance, Politics, and Co-Immunity I/we will perform “My private bio-politics” performance in its 3rd phase that I will reveal to you during the performance.
Now, it is very important to me not only to perform for you but also to prepare the video material that I will send to producers, programmers, directors of different festivals that present contemporary dance projects.
I would need your help to prepare it!
The performer is opening his lap-top:
Which festivals might be considered?
At this moment there is no open call for the festivals that I am interested in …
But as I have already performed this work I realized that what is more efficient than application is >>>>>>>> recommendation!
Thus, after performing in Berlin at the Tanz im August festival I have received following e-mail:
Dear Sasa Asentic,
I got your e-mail address from Julia Wocke, Tanzwerkstatt Berlin. I’m writing from “brut”, a new international coproduction-house for performance, dance and theatre in Vienna. Our artistic directors Heiko Pfost and Thomas Frank are very interested in your work and would be pleased if you could send us a video from your performance My own private biopolitics.
Is that possible?
Just send it to the address below,
thank you very much,
He is closing his lap-top and putting it in the left front corner of the “boxing ring”.
He is taking his clothes off, putting them in the right front corner. He is now only in his underwear with a fake animal or maybe Balkan-macho fur on the shoulders, chest, and back.
He is pouring blue pounce on his hair, making the shape of a small hat, and adding a red spot just above his forehead.
He is making an altar in the left back corner – putting an Orthodox icon on top, and adding real whistle around the neck of the saint.
He is giving a sign for start.
When I was a kid I wanted to become an artist.
A 5-minute symbolic and pathetic choreography in the “ring”.
The light is changing, becoming overtheatrical. The scene is silent. You see the fight of a weak and unskillful animal with an invisible enemy. It is trying. It is failing. It is on the floor. Finally it decides to stand up and survive. It stays as a live sculpture of Victory.
The performer suddenly steps out the “boxing ring”.
The light changes immediately, again into working light.
When I was a kid I wanted to become an artist.
I was 7–8 years old. I don’t know why I wanted to become an artist.
And I was thinking about how to become artist and in which art should I be an artist.
And I was thinking to paint is very difficult because you need to train.
Then music, for me was, I need to learn solfeggio – you know it’s very difficult.
Dancing was of course …. so I said: no!
And finally I’ve arrived to the fact that I should become an actor, because actors are doing the same in the movie or in the theatre like in real life.
I thought it was not much to learn.
Yeah, I was very young!
The performer is taking off the fake animal or maybe Balkan-macho fur from his shoulders, chest, and back.
He is putting on Adidas shorts and an athlete T-shirt.
So, in the next years I started to take acting classes with kids until the time I was 16.
I was 16. I was in acting class and I had to go out on stage and to make my scene but I didn’t learn the text. Yeah, I was very lazy. You’ve got it from the beginning. Even at 8 I was already lazy.
And then the teacher – I think he was, he couldn’t stand it anymore and he said: ok – go away. I don’t want you in the class anymore and you? he won’t make performance!
I was very, very shocked!
But it was in the cultural centre and in this room after the acting class there was a dance class. So, I decided to stay in the room. He said: go out, I said: no – and I stayed in the room, and I stayed in the room for the dance class. So, the dancers came and the teacher came and I took the dance class.
Everybody was ok. A new student … I’ve started to do exercises. Warm up.
He is doing exercises.
Like this. Like this. And it was ok. And after a while you do, at the end of the warm up, you do the big split.
He is trying to do a big split position.
And ok, now I cannot do it anymore.
But the thing is: I did it!
I’d never tried it before and at once … it was something like impossible … you know … and we did the warming up and exercises and I could do it. I was so surprised! I was watching me! I was watching the position! I was calling everybody saying: “Look I did it!”
I couldn’t believe it!
It’s fantastic, interesting …
And in fact, it was very easy for me to dance.
I didn’t have to work!
I was doing this. And I was imitating the dance, I mean the teacher.
And ok! And the teacher loved me! Gave me private classes for free.
So, I’ve become a dancer!
In the performance Pichet Klunchun and myself Jérôme Bel gave this answer to the question of why did he, Jerome Bel, become a dancer?
The performer is changing his clothes, putting on again the trousers and T-shirt.
He is walking around the left square.
I’ve been working on this material during my residency in May 2006 in the Centre national de la danse in Paris within the Theorem dance residence program. In the mediatheque of the Centre I’ve got acquainted with the work of several crucial choreographers from the French and Western European contemporary dance scene in general. Amongst others, I was attracted by the work of Jérôme Bel from whose performance Pichet Klunchun and myself I took the the above quotation.
I presented this “quoting scene” for the first time in Dubrovnik, Croatia during the interdisciplinary dramaturgy coaching program – also in May 2006.
These were 2nd and 3rd working periods, but the first one which was the starting point of Indigo Dance project – an artistic research dance project – was in November 2005 in Belgrade within an interdisciplinary dramaturgy coaching.
(We all take a step aside – or any other direction – to detach ourselves from the flow of the performance)
And, now it’s time for a digression. I apologize for interrupting the spectacle. Please be patient, in just a few minutes the performance will continue to run.
Here, together with my colleagues, I would like to open a gap through which we temporarily escape? both from the original version of this performance as work-in-progress and from the later phase as work-in-regress.
Beyond this gap, there is a 3rd phase in which you can find My private biopolitics and the whole Indigo Dance project not as an art work, a “piece” but as a discursive platform.
The platform is meant to be an artistic means, or a methodological tool which we wish to share with contemporary dance and performance artists, who are willing to reflect their contexts and public work. And also to all who have something to say about the structure of the global World of contemporary dance and performance.
With this digression we want to open up the possibility for the work itself to be transformed into its own archeology. Together with other colleagues from other contexts we want to discover or to reveal its multiple layers without an artistic aura that could seduce our gaze.
So, please consider this performance only as its own possible demonstration or actualization, and as a part of an open research platform that includes also talks, methodological games, discussions, etc.
Ok, now I will continue as nothing has happened …Maybe nothing has happened, indeed.
He is sitting on the chair. During the speech he is walking through the materials from time to time, showing some of them to the audience.
These are my materials!
I have collected all of them during these working periods that I have just mentioned – but before that, there were several, to be precise – three situations, three reasons to even start thinking about the new project.
– After having watched several Serbian contemporary dance productions I asked myself: Is there any other possible way to produce contemporary dance in Serbia than to copy techniques and concepts that are popular, almost even trendy, and that are usually or only coming from the West? This was the first situation.
– The second situation occured during work on the performance Fragments which was the production of New Dance Forum of the Serbian National Theatre in 2005. I was developing a solo within that project … And in the final phase when decisions had to be taken about which materials / scenes were going to be part of the performance and which were not – it was decided that that solo was not to become part of the Fragments performance, because it was seen as being “a parody of ballet” and that would not be a right thing to do – I was told. …I was very, very shocked! I had tried to explain that it was not about a parody of ballet but about dance education in Serbia – that solo was about the possibility to develop a dancing /dancer’s? body, to educate the dancing/dancer’s? body out of the only existing dance education system in Serbia! However, that solo was evacuated from Fragments and I used it as “fuel” for Indigo Dance project. …But the interesting thing is that the solo was evacuated even from this performance at the end, as well. So, I was wondering if the destiny of that solo was to be continuously elusive for the audience. The thing I can guarantee you is that this solo is present in traces in tonight’s performance!
– The 3rd situation that enhanced Indigo Dance project happened probably because I was intensively thinking about all these problems, all these materials – so, one morning I had a dream! It was June 19, 2005, 9:34 AM – when I sent this email to Bojana Cvejić, theorist from Belgrade and Brussels. In this email I described the dream that I had!
He is taking the letter from the floor, reading it aloud or rather re-telling it.
In the dream Bojana Cvejić has a new performance.
It is something between theoretical performance and circus! Together with Bojana Cvejić there is a real trained elephant. In this dream the elephant represents the dance scene from Serbia. But which part of the dance scene? The part that has had a ballet education and is now trying to make a step into experiencing contemporary dance. The interesting thing in this dream is that the elephant responds to questions and tasks given by Bojana Cvejić and takes position of self-criticism and self-irony. And in some moments it seems that the elephant is being aware of what it is being told and that is not only about mechanically trained reactions.
He is moving from pot to pot along the diagonal, toward the front stage, attaching a copy of the image of a figure whose legs and hands are mixed up to each of them???.
How to understand influential choreographers instead of copying or imitating them?
That is a central question of this work!
Influences are of great importance indeed – development would not be possible if we would be closed off from influences. But how are we to understand them?
…What is it that can make my work, my dance not into a copy? Or to be more precise, what is it that can give me the possibility to perform the same scene from let’s say Shirtology or The Show Must Go on or Pichet Klunchun and myself by Jérôme Bel – and not to be a copy?
In this work my attempt is to use a quotation as an intentional choice of indicating references, history, context … the quotation is given explicitly, but it is not a literally copied phrase but a process of translation!
Is translation an alternative to copying?
The translation that is not oriented toward coping or achieving an equivalence to its original, but which is focused on reflecting its own local context and on finding the phenomena, terms, solutions adequate to the context in which the dance trends, concepts, and influences are being introduced.
Hence, the translating where the translation is more important than its original!
When finished, he is proudly showing the row of the “enchased” pots.
This is a copy of the photo from well-known performance Self-unfinished by the very influential choreographer Xavier le Roy.
Really, how to understand such a great and influential choreographer but not to make him an ornament?
Just to clarify something about this thesis.
Conceptual dance that is the most influential in our dance contexts is not a big mainstream paradigm of European dance scene but it’s a marginal practice.
And that is just what the problem is about!
We “bet” on conceptual dance, as if it were the only hope, the only chance, the only crack through which we – as being outside of the European dance scene – can pierce through and appear on it!
He is moving through the materials.
The influences mostly come from the West.
The quotation that I performed right after leaving the ring of my local context, I presented for the first time Dubrovnik, Croatia. Later on, during the discussion that followed I was told by Goran Sergej Pristaš, dramaturge from the Centre for Drama Arts from Zagreb, that after the first few sentences he had thought:
“Ough, Saša no! Don’t go into the autobiographic sentimental story
about how you became a dancer.
It will totally ruin the stream of performance
which was good until that moment”! (As he said)
…Of course he thought like this only until the moment when he realized that this scene was about an explicit quotation!
It put me in position to ask myself: What does it mean exactly?
Does it mean that Jérôme Bel has the right to perform an autobiographic story about how he became a dancer? And in his case it is a new contemporary dance production? And that I don’t have that right to contemporaneity?
Who has the right to contemporaneity?
…Thinking about possible answers to this question, the text by Bojana Kunst, theorist from Ljubljana, “Performing Other Body” published in TkH Journal no. 4, 2002 helped me a lot! In the text she writes about why the East always fails in keeping step with “contemporaneity” to which the West has an almost exclusive right?
The performer is staying between the squares, just in front of you.
Is the only right that is left for us – is the right to be:
exotic (showing the ring),
amateurish (showing himself),
old-fashioned (showing the materials),
because we do not have the right to contemporaneity?
Is the only right that is left for us – the right to a non-articulated body,
confused, a bit awkward, too bodily, too romantic, a narrative body,
the body as an attempt, as a late physicality,
which is always limited to the specific, particular context (political, traditional, ethnical, local, marginal)?
… the right to the dance that is late in cultural, technological, aesthetic and all other terms?!
ANOTHER DIGRESSION. BELIEVE IT OR NOT:
In Dubrovnik, when I was supposed to give a presentation of this work, one of the technicians asked me if I could use the lights of other performances because he was too lazy to set them up, to prepare them for me!
I was very shocked! I said: “No, I need my lights for my performance!”
… But then I asked myself what would happen if I included his question, his proposal into my work and if I let my work be visible, be defined only by other surrounding performances?
To the technicians:
Please, in the next few minutes give me the lights of all the performances that have been performed here in this space!!!
You are teleported together with the performer to Novi Sad!
(SORRY FOR THE INNCONVENIENCE.)
The performer is standing on the very back of the scene, behind the squares.
The lights are changing arbitrarily, making points where there are no points, and re-reading the scene strangely … maybe annoyingly …
This is the Hinterbühne! This is the dance floor!
This is a place of contemporary dance in Novi Sad and one of the few in Serbia.
This is place of New Dance Forum!
This is an isolating tape!
On this dance floor there are many traces of dance.
I will try to isolate them on this dance floor.
He is crouching and looking at the floor carefully.
It’s hard to see them …
But the the lights of other surrounding performances will help me to find them!
I will mark the traces of the performances presented on this dance floor …
Probably, I will mark the traces of New Dance Forum productions.
Here is one!
He is isolating it, as well as all the others he finds, with the tape.
Maybe this is a trace of Language of Walls?
Here is another one! Fragments!
And one more! Smile of the Mind!
Maybe I will mark the dance traces of Galina Borissova, Dalija Acin, Isidora Stanisic, and traces of the ballet ensemble of the Serbian National Theatre.
Which of these traces have the privilege to presence?
Which of these traces are the traces of dance that is already late, too?
I am marking them, I am tracing them, …because they remain very briefly!
In Serbia contemporary dance doesn’t last for a long time!
Here traces of dance remain very briefly!
There are no historical traces; they are erased, they are invisible.
Am I also already late in this attempt to mark the dance traces?
You are teleporting back to your common context as a Dance, Politics, and Co-Immunity reader.
The light is changing, and turning to the working light.
The performer is walking between the squares.
However, what is important for marking dance and its more lasting traces are not only the dance traces themselves but also other surrounding practices.
Thinking about what can I do with this I remembered the work of Ana Vujanović and Tanja Marković “Artists Have to Walk through Theory”.
Then, I realized that the majority of the dance scene in Serbia neglects this as it conceives a dance piece does not address theory.
We have the situation where choreographers and dancers don’t need to articulate their work in theoretical terms.
So, I was thinking what would happen if we replace the words in this statement
“Artists have to walk through theory”,
And if we say:
“Dancers – have – to – dance – through – theory“
“Dancers – have – to – walk – through – dance“
What kind of new engagement would be required from us?
And would this new engagement make the traces (to become) more visible?
Or, all that I am saying and presenting to you here has nothing to do with it!
What if it is only a matter of geo-politics?
Then all my materials that I’ve prepared for tonight are meaningless!!!
The performer is taking a paper from the left square, and reading in Serbian the decision of the Department for Culture of the City of Novi Sad.
In the decision, they politely inform him that they decided not to support the project “Indigo Dance”, because its content, although interesting, is not a subject matter of the Department (i.e. a matter of culture).
These were some of the materials!
As you can see there are more, but of course I am not going to present them all now.
I don’t have time!
I have to prepare the video of this performance!
I would need your help to do it and I can’t hold you here for the whole day or night.
I have to act fast!!!
What to do with all of them?
Each of them presents the local “specificum” which, in fact, neither we ourselves nor I suppose the International co-production house Brut in Vienna want to know about, where they expect me to present contemporary dance and new dance tendencies.
I’ve decided to purify my work, to purify my dance.
I should clear it of local context because that is what is acceptable.
Only exotic or pure dance, uninterrupted flow of movement is acceptable.
Showing by finger the black plastic box:
So, I decided to include this object in my work to help me clear it of local “specificum”
and to give me more chances to make my way to the this co-production house in Vienna!
The box is in fact paper shredder.
The performer is turning the electricity on, shredding and destroying most of the materials from the left square.
He is using the paper cuttings as confetti to decorate his path on the central line of the stage (between the squares).
Now, I am free of context!
I need two more elements to be completely ready.
One is this upper part of a track suit that suits me perfectly; together with this second hand trousers and second hand T-shirt it gives me a “Berliner second hand look”!
With no doubt I am now recognizable as a contemporary dancer, and I’m totally into the new dance tendencies!
And the second element is the light for contemporary dance!
He is wearing the upper part of a track suit.
Floor light is on.
Slowly we are getting closer to the moment when we will finish the video of this performance!
If you have been listening to me at the beginning while I was reading the e-mail you could hear that they asked me to send a video of my performance.
From now on it will be the part of the performance that I will actually send to the artistic directors of Brut centre in Vienna.
Because it will be pure dance, uninterrupted flow of movement, with all the necessary elements of contemporary dance!
I don’t want to risk that with all theother materials that I had prepared for this performance no one will be interested in it, will be interested in local specificum that disturbs the flow of dance!
I don’t want my work to be considered as a betrayal of the bound between dance and movement.
So, it will be only this pure dance that will follow now, made within its familiar parameters!
Now I would need your help to record this on camera.
He is taking the camera from the left square and inviting one of you to record. You or if not you then some other good willing visitor or reader is taking the camera.
The camera is on (you can use the camera on your mobile phone as well).
THE PERFORMANCE “MY PRIVATE BIO-POLITICS” STARTS:
Serbian National Theatre – Hinterbühne, again
When I was a kid I didn’t want to become an artist.
The performer is singing and dancing “The Last Tango” all over the stage.
He is performing a series of dance sequences, from his own or the others’ performances. They seem familiar to you. The changes are very fast. All kinds of movement and dance styles are included. It is something like a dance nightmare.
While a strange music (you can only recognize words: Je ne sais pas …) is running he slowly dances on the confetti path, from the front stage, turning his back to you.
The fire protection metal “curtain” is opening.
You can see the Main stage behind.
While dancing, the performer is leaving the Hinterbühne and entering the Main stage of the Serbian National Theatre. The spot light is on.
He is dancing on the Main stage!
In a found set.
In front of the empty auditorium.
The performance is over.
You are back to your common context.
Stop recording with the camera.
He is staying on the page, in front of you, looking you in the eyes.
I am Saša Asentić, native of Bosnia and Herzegovina, based in Serbia.
This was my My Private Bio-politics performance.
After the premiere, the most important question to me was: Why did festivals from Western Europe (such as Tanz im August – TiA) invite me to perform?
I asked myself the question because I couldn’t understand it –
this work criticizes the Western monopoly of contemporary dance;
besides it is neither Balkan-exotic nor virtuous;
moreover it is not even a dance!
So, why have I been invited?
I would take the TiA festival invitation as an example!
When André Theriault, one of artistic directors of TiA, invited me, he told me that the questions that I raised in the performance were important not only for my local context but also to their scene. I guess he meant the Berlin dance scene, the Western dance scene.
It was very challenging to accept to perform on TiA, because I had to find the answer to this question – otherwise all the questions that I raised in this work would become senseless and neutralized by the TiA invitation!
So, together with my colleague Ana Vujanović we came up with several possible conclusions, and the most optimistic assumption that we decided to include in this very performance is the following one:
Maybe TiA or other festivals from the West wants to be critical towards its own context in the same way as we are in this work towards our local context?
If so, TiA needs this work to criticize its own context – because TIA cannot do it, cannot criticize it by itself as being part of it, as already being inside the system.
Maybe that’s why TiA invited this work three years ago and so did festivals in New York, Moscow, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Salzburg, etc. later – maybe they all invited this performance as a critical perspective from outside of the system? And its real, not only symbolic outside position is the very symptom it talks about: the Western monopoly over the contemporary dance scene.
Maybe these festivals are fully aware that their critical potential is weak and in fact benign as it is already adopted and appropriated by the system they belong to.
If it is so, then they made a mistake!
Because thanks to these invitations this performance also becomes a part of the system, adopted by the system and legitimatized by the system. And I am, by performing it, loosing my exceptional critical position – the outside position that is material evidence of the criticism that I am performing!
If all these assumptions are correct then I can only apologize to all of you for not fulfilling your expectations, being aware that my critical performance became just one more piece at these festivals!
It’s not my personal fault, and it’s not your or their personal fault.
That is how the art, dance system operates.
Now, I am wondering if I was a part of the system even before these invitations?
Did this mistake date from much before?
According to Boris Groys:
“The only difference between Western and Eastern art is
that Eastern art always comes from the East!”
It’s time to turn the page.
If you would stay a bit more to develop this work further?
After the self-abolition of this performance as an art work in the 3rd phase, we comprehend the work as an artistic means, a methodological tool which we wish to share with contemporary dance and performance artists, who are willing to reflect their contexts and public work and with all who have something to say about the structure of the global World of contemporary dance and performance.
We would like to invite you to join us in this research and to develop your own “private bio-politics” – thinking about which other stories could be told about symbolical ownership over history and concepts, about the monopolizing of the global dance and performance scene, and about the patronization of “the backward” and “the always late (comers)”.
We would usually propose to start with a discussion or an after talk moderated by a (local / present) theorist, artist or in this case by you on the spot. After that, you can play some of the methodological games (Impersonation game, Generique, etc.) by applying them to the subjects and problems raised in My private bio-politics.
For more info about the games please visit:
www.everybodystoolbox.net or contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
studied Agriculture and Pedagogy at University in Novi Sad, Serbia. He has autodidactic informal education in the field of performing arts. Since 2000, his work was presented in different festivals and art centers in Europe and abroad, he is initiator and program director of Per.Art – an organization that deals with production and promotion of performing arts in Serbia. He is also the author and leader of the program Arts and Inclusion for mentally disabled people. Asentić is a fellow artist of Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart in 2011/2013.
is a freelance worker, theorist, researcher, writer, lecturer, curator, dramaturge in contemporary performing arts and culture. In recent years her research interest has been focused on the intersections between performance and politics in neoliberal capitalist societies (Vita performactiva), and she is currently running two research projects: Performance and the Public (Les laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, Paris) and Escenas discursivas (Matadero / El Ranchito, Madrid).
This volume is dedicated to the question of how dance, both in its historical and in its contemporary manifestations, is intricately linked to conceptualisations of the political. Whereas in this context the term "policy" means the reproduction of hegemonic power relations within already existing institutional structures, politics refers to those practices which question the space of policy as such by inscribing that into its surface which has had no place before. The art of choreography consists in distributing bodies and their relations in space. It is a distribution of parts that within the field of the visible and the sayable allocates positions to specific bodies. Yet in the confrontation between bodies and their relations, a deframing and dislocating of positions may take place. The essays included in this book are aimed at the multiple connections between politics, community, dance, and globalisation from the perspective of e.g. Dance and Theatre Studies, History, Philosophy, and Sociology.