Anna Hoetjes: The Gap In The Image
Mentor: Doreen Mende
Independent reviewer: Nora Sternfeld
Arnhem, June 2012
This thesis explores on the one hand my interest in collective, physical movements that goes beyond a totalitarian collective. On the other hand it is an investigation on how to represent an event in to another
medium. How to represent an event without trying to reproduce it or pin down the meaning of this moment?
The starting point for this research has been a project I did one year ago in Leipzig, Germany , called TURN! In this project I created - in collaboration with choreographer Heike Hennig- a choreography with a
big group of volunteers on a stadium field. I wanted to investigate the possibilities for synchronised, collective movement in a space that is loaded with the history of mass- movement parades during the socialist
GDR, but throughout the last 25 years has become an arena for contemporary links between sports and commerce.
I wanted to explore possibilities for contemporary collective movements that transgress both commercial and ideological use. My premise is the belief that individualism is a norm, and a totality, in western society. This individualism needs to be questioned just as much as the norms and totalities within state - socialism needed to be questioned.
The filmed documentation that was shot during this performance in collaboration with film director Daniel G. Schwarz didn't provide an easy solution to show a definite outcome of this project afterwards. This project had been organised with the purpose of creating a representable image out of it from the beginning. Despite storyboards and detailed planning, the material would never convey a clear message afterwards. It turned out that the intentions of TURN! were never completely defined to start with and that absolute answers could not be given.
This thesis takes you along the process of my frustration about this incapability in creating a clear document, eventually coming to realise that the lack of definition and finalisation shows exa ctly those gaps and ruptures that open up the documentation. The instable meaning of this document might actually show the potential of the collective, beyond a clearly defined, all encompassing commercial and ideological purposes.
The second layer in this thesis is the exploration in the different meanings the word 'collective' can have. I try to go into the different manifestations, functions and possibilities of 'collectives', which
eventually helps me to think of a collectivity beyond totalitarianism and what the image of a collective like this could be.
The thesis "The Gap in the image" by Anna Hoetjes shows a high reflexivity at the intersection of theory and practice. It takes the project TURN! – a mass-choreography with volunteers in a stadium field that the author created in cooperation with a choreographer – as a starting point for an investigation on the (im)possibilities of collectivity today. But it is less the project itself, than its ruptures and frustrations – the gaps in the image – that are driving the thinking process of the text.
Methodologically the author has undertaken the risk of what Irit Rogoff calls criticality: She is constantly reflecting the conditions and assumptions in which she is writing. This is especially brave as it makes explicit a lot of contradictions, pitfalls and failures that occurred during the process of the artistic and theoretical practice: How is it possible to refer to the mass gymnastics of the GDR today? Can individualism be transgressed in an actual artistic practice? To what end? In the context of what ideology? By going around the gaps and failures the author has succeeded in presenting an engaging work on sports history, crowds and collectives, arts and politics, the failing of states socialism and the (empty) promises of capitalism.
The construction of the thesis is clear and each section is well articulated and comprehensible. During the research process the author did get a broad and deep knowledge about the implications of mass choreography from a historical and theoretical perspective. Furthermore she is not only problematising the concept as well as the representation of collectivity but works also on a mutuality that allows repetitions, gaps and contradictions.
The thesis is inspired by recent work of Jean Luc Nancy, Boris Groys, Peggy Phelan and Irit Rogoff as well as by a collective writing process with the participants of the project. The thesis is indeed a very welcome contribution to an artistic research that would understand itself as a (self-)critical practice in order to challenge what can be said, done and seen. N.S.