Here you can read the text Naked Critique, which was published in the Swedish magazine Koreografisk Journal in may 2014, together with my other text Absolute Hospitality. The theme of that edition of the magazine was dance critique.
When I first wrote the text about Absolute Hospitality I did it – not with the intention to write a critique, but with the intention to create a reflection on a personal ”aesthetic experience” connected to a live performance. But, reading the first number of Koreografisk Journal I got the idea that it could be interesting to reflect further upon the text, relating to it as a critique. Especially if connecting it to some aspects of Katarina Lion’s text ”Danskritik som politisk koreografi – är det möjligt?” (Dance-critique as political choreography – is it possible?). Lion´s text questions, among other things, to what extent it might be possible to view dance-critique as a kind of extension or displacement of the choreographic event*. Good question. Lion writes: ”What I am thinking is that there could be a space for a sort of politicisation of the message of the text that would benefit the whole event and create new ”ripple effects” of meaning. By seeing the critique as a sort of displacement of the choreography the role of the critic would be a more brave and evident political part of the event.”
So, in what way could it (or could it not) be possible to understand the text about Absolute Hospitality as an extension of the choreographic event?
I wonder if one could say that, as a physical action can make an internal reaction visible through being a bodily manifestation of the reaction, a critic can, in a way, expand this visibility through the text. In the Absolute Hospitality-text I argue that Fräähsens performance can be seen as interactive in a way that makes, not only the audiences physical actions, but also their internal reactions become part of the performance itself. I would say that these reactions were part of the choreography in an indirect, non-complete sense. They were not fully exposed but became visible to a certain extent through some of my physical actions resulting from them. The text about Absolute Hospitality might, then, be considered an extension of the choreographic event in the sense that the text is exposing an aspect of the choreography that in the performance setting was only noticeable to a certain degree. Because by containing detailed descriptions of my, or let us say the critic’s, internal reactions, the “invisible choreography of the inner” is getting, in a way, dislocated, from being partly hidden within the viewer (and partly visible in the room through her/his physical actions), to becoming verbal, put into words and thus placed in the text. By placing the partly invisible “inner choreography” into the text, that same choreography – the emotional and mental changes within the viewer – becomes utterly clarified and thus visible to a greater extent than before. In this way, the critique expands the visibility of the choreography, and becomes an extension of it by placing the choreography in the text.
In the performance Absolute Hospitality the performer made himself vulnerable by letting go of a certain control by keeping his eyes shut while lying naked on his back in a room full of strangers, inviting them to do whatever came to their mind. This can be seen as an act of hospitality.
I think that, even if one can choose how to communicate or express a certain spontaneous inner reaction, the spontaneous reaction itself is not necessarily an object of choice. I do not think I, for instance, could have decided not to feel the immediate fear that came to me when I first entered the performance-room and noticed I was the only one there. That emotional impulse was, at least to a certain extent, beyond the “critic´s” control.
But, in addition to making visible some of these spontaneous, highly subjective inner reactions to the performance-situation, the reactions are also problematized and reflected upon, as part of the critique. One can say that the critic, in my case, takes the position of an experiencing and reflecting subject, rather than of an apparently objective “evaluator” of the piece. By doing this, the critic lowers his/her status in relation to the reader. The critic also put him/herself in a vulnerable position by letting the reader “watch” the inner reactions and thus giving them the possibility to judge the critic as well as the performance he/she is writing about. In this sense the critic is also, in a way, naked. Emotionally undressed.
And the critic could have chosen not to share these inner reactions with the reader. She/he could have chosen to not to tell anyone. But did. And I would actually propose to consider that an act of hospitality.
Maybe the text Absolute Hospitality can be seen as a sort of “naked critique”, a critique that visualizes and exposes some of the critic’s inner life, making internal reactions become “object” for the critical judgements of the reader? A sort of critique where the critic uses his/her internal reactions as a tool to analyse the performance-situation, and which does not try to “hide” its own subjectivity. If we can view the text Absolute Hospitality as an example of a type of critique, this “naked critique” might first of all be useful, or even “justifiable” to use on certain types of performances. Probably the exposure of the critic´s internal reactions first of all becomes interesting when analysing interactive performances that actually seeks to “put into movement” the internal life of the audience, making their inner reactions become part of the event. On the other hand, which performance does not somehow attempt to make something happen within the spectator, either emotionally, intellectually, perceptually, or in some other way? Viewing upon it from that angle one might equally wonder to what extent it is possible not to consider the reactions of the audience as somehow part of the event…
*The word “event” here is my translation of what Lion name as “händelse” in her text. She refers to the dance critic and researcher June Veil, who, in the book “Kulturella Koreografier”, defines “danshändelse”(dance-event) as consisting of four elements; dancer, viewer, choreographic forms, and context, and she describes four models of writing critique, which each one of them emphasizes one of these aspects more than the others. P. 20)