From Archaic Atavism to Technological Future

Guillermo Espinosa über Moving in Concert von Mette Ingvartsen
© Marc Domage
Guillermo Espinosa über Moving in Concert von Mette Ingvartsen

Mette Ingvartsens Moving in Concert stand Anfang März am Programm und musste aufgrund der Maßnahmen zur Eindämmung der Covid-19-Pandemie abgesagt werden. Guillermo Espinosa konnte das Stück in Madrid sehen und wurde zu noch immer und wieder aktuellen Fragen angeregt:

Do you picture yourself as an apocalyptic or an integrated kind of person? I mean, do you think the technological revolution we’re all living in will result in a better world or will it lead us to the end of the world instead? Please, forgive me for using some old terms stolen from an essay by Umberto Eco that is now distant. It was written in 1964 and focused on mass-media society, the era preceding our current technological one. The world has changed so much since then. Today, we accept ideas like artificial intelligence, big data, virtual reality, digital communication, cybernetics or biotechnology as a matter of course, and we can even assume future changes in the ontological, in the essence of being, unperplexed: we glimpse the post-human. All the things that sounded like a science fiction story back in 1964. As all this has become real, the basic question, “Are we for or against a world that drags us along the path of innovation?”, seems to remain very relevant in our minds. Will technology destroy the planet? Or will it bring about ecological transition? Will big data free societies and will it help to defeat tyrants? Will artificial intelligence prevail over ours? Or will it coexist with us and serve us faithfully? Will the post-human mean the end of our identity? Or will it entail a necessary evolution?

Mette Ingvarsten’s Moving in Concert wants to create a framework of abstract coexistence between the fundamental elements of this equation: the natural, the human and the technological. She does so by constantly appealing to metaphor. Successive layers of reading unfold even before the dance begins: on stage, a suspended black pipe will soon begin to spit out grit. On the ground, digital LEDs radiate white light. An opaque twisted wooden stick lies between them. There is a cascade of muffled and jumbled voices, like a murmur in the background. Naked bodies make their entrance and take Hellenic poses, like ancient sculptures in a museum, evading the fragility of their nudity. This staging subtly appeals even to old tensions that emerged in plastic art in the 1960s, i.e. those of rationality pushed to the limit of simplification in aesthetic minimalism (Dan Flavin’s sculptural light spaces; or a later Wolfgang Laib and his small mountains of elemental materials), in contrast with the contemporary but naturalistic methodical production of Arte Povera (the bare, knotted wood sculptures of Penone, the disparaging rhetoric of the sculptural by Pistoletto). One can even suspect that one will witness, as even that slight murmur of voices interspersed with electronic sounds indicates, an action on the margins dictated by Fluxus, with all its assumed transversality. There is a known path in all this, but also an uncertainty of where it will lead us.

Then the dance begins: a timid displacement at first, that becomes openly operative, appreciably pragmatic, without any virtuosity, repetitive and simplified. Its reading is ambivalent but continuous: it is absolutely natural at all times, according to the logic of humans, but there is also something artificial about it: mechanical and programmed. The wooden stick almost assumes the role of a command rod and passes from hand to hand: its bearer will sometimes be a free note, in the margin, a different movement, a dissidence. A bluish, amoebic, cellular or protozoan creature will emerge, a possible transcript of a new evolution, biotechnological and circuitrian, but also linked to the sea and the common origin of evolution. Its dismemberment will serve to initiate a sort of invocation: an authentic electronic trance, reddish, progressive, in a frantic atavistic turn, distressing in its slow evolution, in the postponed anxiety of its liberation, but also banally mechanical, like the springs of a machine or an endless rendering process. Both the archaic and atavistic as well as the new mechanical and technological are constantly appealed to: in between, the residue of the natural seems to be the very origin of dissent. It is not so much an opposition as an essay on the ways for their possible, perhaps forced coexistence.

Mette Ingvarsten’s approach to the current state of humans, allegedly abstract and reasonably neutral, equidistant and conciliatory, but not entirely free of conflict, ends up leaving a persistent feeling: it seems to warn us that change or progress in our position will not be conclusive. No matter how much the future promises us, there is a prevailing essence, an immobile, immemorial, rudimentary and disconnected consciousness, filtered in everything that humans produce and linked to its nature, that secretly guides and satirizes us, when it does not sabotage any attempt of sublimation.


Guillermo Espinosa (La Laguna, Tenerife, 1975) is a spanish contemporary culture journalist, researcher and also an independent art curator. He´s well known for his articles and interviews on different subjects as contemporary art, literature, photography, cinema, fashion and dance. He also has founded several non for profit independent art spaces, dedicated mainly to site-specific and performance. He lives and works in Madrid, Spain.