In 2019, I participated in a choreographic lab at the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences on Gadigal Country to “hack” the Anthropocene. I started to explore the circular economy through futurist strategies that led me to engage in “choreocraftivism”: small, slow, subtle, participatory gestures and actions sensitive to the climate crisis. In a series of residencies, conversations and studio practice I’ve developed kinaesthetic responses, scores and choreographic strategies to cultivate new imaginaries that elevate the more-than-human and efface the subject.
In Berlin, I will walk, write, whirl and look to expand the global commons of ongoing conversation, and think like a chair* for a future idolatry.
*Aldo Leopold is responsible for the phrase “think like a mountain”. He suggests that it takes a mountain to think the long-term connectivity for the grass, deer and wolves to flourish.
RESEARCH - THINGS, A NEW IDOLATRY
Wiesenstrasse, 30 - 12.7.2022:
Of all the “turns” in recent intellectual times, we approach the most important one of all: the thing turn. To pivot full throttle and with abandon to the world of things we might as a specie manage to sever the self-centric importance of the “I” in relation with them.
An onto-ethical effacement of the “I” is rather hazardous if not near impossible. We cling dearly to the edges of self-presencing if not more desperately in creation and critique. Dialectically doubled over with the burden to refuse both Heideggerian “idle talk” (Gerede pr. jereeda) and serious discourse, a refrain from the suffering is found in the “silence of objects”, as Samuel Beckett’s Molloy reminds us.
Agitated, we cover over this chasm of peace; no, in fact we jam it shut with data-fed determination and signification. Unlike Martin Heidegger, who foists Being at things disclosed for the benefit of us, Molloy’s silence brings us closer to nothing. And it is in this nothing that we all might stand a chance.
Wiesenstrasse, 30 - 12.7.2022:
Jane Bennett’s recognition of “thing power” permits a stormy procession on the subjectively enhanced, angling our glance to the non-human relation between dead rats and bottle caps. Hers is a promising yield toward the material and materiality.
To encounter an object’s thing power is to be with it, move with it, well before any notion of it as “use-value”. Use value is where “an object outside of us” is propertied in terms of it satisfying “human wants of some sort or another”. Marx always tied labour to objects, even at their most basic value, as he did not think beyond the means of production when exploitation of the human exists. He did, however, speak of “useless things”, those things with no labour in it. While he understood those things to possess “no” value; what if this is a thing’s only value? (Das Kapital, Part 1, Ch. 1, 17-21).
In uselessness, we find a redemptive power for things, like trash on the street, or a pile of things filling a house beyond the limits of human inhabitation. The hoarder is a mystic of thing power who gathers and forgets. They see no immediate utility unless asked to remove and are psychologically bullied into guilt for their excessive attachment. The genocide is ruthless and denies any truth of the hoarder’s spirit to reveal the power of things in their uselessness.
RESEARCH - CHOREOCRAFTIVISM
I seem to be experiencing a “thing turn”: a de-anthropic whirl. Post the “affective” and “corporeal” turns of the last two decades which has given way to the reclamation of matter as agential in New Materialism, my choreographic practice takes up the power, mystery and possibility of things in a gentle form of activism as a response to the climate crisis.
In this paper, I introduce the everyday practice of choreocraftivism as a highly participatory form of actions and gestures that cultivate specific forms of attention and awareness. Through a fusion of expanded choreographic thinking and craftivism (1), I argue that we can re-evaluate our relationship to the more-than-human with dance as an efficacious bodily site of non-violent and inclusive resistance.
The projects Chairfriendseries 2019 and Street Finders Berlin 2022 (see here below) focus upon the “circular economy’s” logic of upcycle, recycle, slow fashion and the right to repair as disruptions to the linear movement of a thing from “cradle to grave”. They are pedestrian, non-presentational, non-representational events that are never marked as performance. The choreocraftivist looks for things dumped on the kerb with the mobility of a flaneur. They document, bind, arrange and fold to encourage adoption and as an expression of care. The shared creations of gestural patterns are distributed for wider participation.
Fundamental to the practice is my theory of Thingism for the analysis and creation of relations between things (of which we are one) and/or in letting them be. The theory draws together Husserlian Phenomenology and Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) beyond their epistemological differences to enable fine-grained descriptions of these relations and our much-needed reflection to change.
(1) The term “craftivism” was coined by cross-stitcher and guerrilla-knitter Betsy Greer in the early 2000s. It is a subtle, yet strong and subversive form of socio-political protest and action.
ACTION - STREET FINDER
I walk the streets looking for things dumped on the kerb with the mobility of a flaneur. I bind, arrange and fold things to encourage adoption and/or as an expression of my care. My movements are without affectation or exaggeration. I am present and attentive to each thing found in its environment: folding neatly, sorting, arranging and binding with string. There is a deep embodied listening and sensitivity to the thing in its vulnerability, exposure, crisis. My movements become purposeful and meditative; gestures develop into kinetic patterns (folding); they are repetitive, iterative. Value in the thing’s re-positioning is restored.
The events are documented and photographed later to celebrate their re-homing.
"Street Finder" [Berlin] footage: ©Joe Appleton
Photos: ©Lindsay Webb
JODIE MCNEILLY - BIO AND PRACTICE
Jodie McNeilly (she/her/thing), PhD lives and works on Gadigal, Bidjigal and Birra-Birragal lands of the Eora Nation. She is a Choreographer and Researcher whose current practice responds to the climate crisis. Her approach is to develop strategies and actions through choreographic thinking and processes for broader participation and activism. "Choreocraftivism" involves collaborative acts that move against consumerism, waste and extractive practices through valuing the more-than-human – especially things. Over the years, Jodie has created and presented several group choreographies on Sydney stages with a focus upon her 'system of transitions' and held many research residencies in Australia and Europe, the latest as a resident for Filmexplorer in Berlin (2022). She lectures in Philosophy (ACU), Theatre and Performance Studies (USYD), is a Film Reviewer (Filmexplorer), and has published widely in dance, performance and philosophy.
My choreographic practice is an ongoing response to the Climate Crisis. I am interested in how choreographic thinking can develop strategies and actions to create participatory responses that might motivate deeply felt activism—however small and gentle the gesture.
Since my participation in Critical Path’s Choreographic Lab Hacking the Anthropocene in 2019 at the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences, I have dedicated my choreographic research to developing “choreocraftivism”, a practice which involves small, subtle, playful gestures in the everyday, influenced by the craftivist movement and D.I.Y culture. These “actions” are intimate in their encounter and participatory in their reach to entice the wider community; they are responsive and spontaneous events … e.g. ChairfriendSeries (Instagram community for abandoned chairs); Street Finders Berlin (folding, binding, arranging events).
I am interested in dialogue that is persistent and sensitive to our changing conditions. A dance that is ethical, relational and non-(re)presentational. My practice and publications in this area ultimately hope to demonstrate how choreographic thinking and practice can contribute to important discussions on how artists and the individual are not causally impotent players in creating change … e.g. Digital-LIKE Commons for Choreographic Collaborations on the Climate Change Catastrophe (critiquing and creating new forms of data through bodily practice).
The practice has slowly developed over a series of residencies, conversations and in my studio practice where I’ve developed kinaesthetic responses, scores and strategies to cultivate new socio-cultural imaginaries that elevate the more-than-human while effacing the primacy of our subjectivity… e.g. Extinction Lab (Death Doula response to the bushfires; the day-I-became-a-silverfish imaginaries); A Conversation between Coal; 6 Cubed Score; Whirling for the world (Dervish spinning practice).