larose: "How do we train our political imagination?"
larose's 20 minute presentation for Maelstrom Slow Dance - DAI's 3 day graduation lectures marathon, June 2017
It can cut you like a knife / If the gift becomes the fire
More than half of the audience joins larose on the stage, dividing the audience into those who choose to take part and those who do not. With all of the theater lights out, one is immediately confronted with an unusual situation where the audience members who are on stage have a clear presence but cannot be seen. Loud pop music sampled in very short clips brings a dance floor vibe to the stage, but it is a dancehall disturbed. The mix of songs is played continuously for fifteen minutes, one after another, but never to completion. Sections of popular dance songs are doled out in small parcels, causing a curious effect that is similar to being constantly interrupted in conversation or thought. Those dancing, nevertheless, seem not to be bothered by it and relish the opportunity to move their bodies, shout and scream with the music. At a few points throughout the performance, larose flicks a lighter, bringing the danger and excitement of fire to the stage. In a celebratory gesture at the end, they light a paper on fire, which is extinguished almost as quickly as it flared up.
By turning off the lights, larose offers the participants privacy and the liberty to let go and stop being concerned with their appearance. Something secret could be happening on the stage but only those dancing know what that is. Meanwhile, those seated in the audience struggle to make out what is happening on stage. After a few minutes it becomes clear that the performance will happen whether or not the audience is watching. This performance is a gift for its participants who seem especially eager to rejoin a more experiential realm of community.
Ray Brassier found it “absolutely terrifying” because he thought the participants were “sadistically prevented from dancing.” He admitted that it would take him some time to recover, and boldly stated that, “I think the person who made this hates you all.”
Gabi Ngcobo summed up her impressions in one line: “That’s how we train our political imagination, thanks.”
Bassam el Baroni elaborated more by saying that larose’s performance “hinders and prevents a false image of collectivity.” He reminded the audience that “clubbing is the easiest image of collectivity and music has that power of bringing people together but there is a false image of the political potency of that.” He proposed that the snippets of beat introduced “a systematic prevention of the occurrence of that false image of collectivity.” Furthermore, he said, the interpretation of the title is that “the gift (referring to Mauss’ notion of the gift) is defined as something that compels you to give something back in return. Music compels you to return that image of the collective. That was systematically prevented.” Referring to Metzinger, he said that there is something “akin to intellectual honesty in understanding the falsehood of that kind of collectivity or image of it.” Finally, he applauded the way larose played around with those notions since the audience couldn’t see what was going on. For el Baroni, this performance has “strong merits and questions the collective subject and its relationship to popular culture.”
Rachel O’Reilly remarked that when the music started she felt relieved because there was music and because of its bold gesture. She “simultaneously enjoyed it and was also frustrated,” and commended larose for their “uncompromising tenacity”.