Contemporary dance festivals in the former Yugoslav space, 2007-2017: the imperceptible politics of curatorial praxis

Baybutt, Alexandra Elizabeth O’Brien (2019) Contemporary dance festivals in the former Yugoslav space, 2007-2017: the imperceptible politics of curatorial praxis. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Analysis of three festival examples, Kondenz, Belgrade Serbia; PLESkavica, Ljubljana, Slovenia; and LocoMotion, Skopje, North Macedonia, makes a contribution to scholarship on the former Yugoslavia. This research contributes to literature on festival studies, curatorial practices and contemporary dance. The concept of imperceptible politics proposed by sociologists Dimitris Papadopoulos, Niamh Stephenson and Vassilis Tsianos (2008: 71-82), characterised by forms of escape and subversion, is used to analyse the selected festivals, and the effects of the organisational principles underpinning their curation. Curation produces ethical and democratic dilemmas which leads to the conclusion that festival-making is a political practice through the creation of dissensus, following philosopher Jacques Rancière (1991: 71). Emancipatory qualities of festival-making are analysed as the curators repurpose the terms of international development and escape hierarchies in the field of dance to develop conditions for contemporary dance as an expanded practice and sustain professional working lives. Contemporary dance acts as an agent for transformation, but also a carrier of older forms of social organisation, reflecting methods and values of Yugoslav Worker Self-management that are deployed by the groups creating the festivals. Arts festival-making through self- organisation and processes of discovery mitigates the effects of hierarchies in contemporary dance, as well as the ways its support structures pre-curate choices. This gives rise to a new typology, the heuristic artist-led festival. This research builds upon observations made by dance theorist Bojana Kunst about the differences in contemporary dance between east and west Europe (2013[2004]) that by 2007 are characterised less by aesthetics and more by differences and limitations of available infrastructure and policies in the former Yugoslav space, as well as organisational principles deployed by festival-makers. Mixed-methods including discourse analysis and ethnography have been used to gather empirical material related to the three festivals between 2007-2017. These findings are synthesised to develop a framework using imperceptible politics as both analytic tool and a phenomenon arising from curatorial praxis.

Producing LocoMotion on decreasing resources, and the decision to end it in 2015, had consequences of reconfiguring the frontiers of solidarity in the independent dance scenes in 3 North Macedonia. The rise of hyper-production ushered in by Europeanisation in Slovenia created doubt about the relevance of festivals. Risking misrecognition, curatorial praxis of PLESkavica involved methods of redistributing agency as compensation for festivalisation (Luc Sala, 2015; Andy Bennett, Jodie Taylor and Ian Woodward, 2014; 2016). Kondenz acted as a public sphere, asserting the right for differences to be visible and communicating challenges facing the independent scene, including the migration of artists away from Serbia. International development support for contemporary dance as an expanded, social and critical practice had been present since the 1990s, and the effects of its decrease over the 2000s are analysed through the prism of festival-making. Curatorial praxis subverted and reworked the demands of international development, without reproducing its constraints or rhetoric, leading to the claim that festivals can be significant practices and sites of recognition and redistribution of agency.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Sustainable Development Goals:
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 35538
Depositing User: Lisa Blanshard
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 09:14
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 19:21

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