Magdalena Inc.+ goes politic – Performance as a Site of the Political  

by Christopher Dell, 2003

An artistic manifesto by "Magdalena Inc.+" on the extended concept of improvisation as the site of democracy. In the following text "Magdalena Inc.+" will be called MI+. The geographical home base of the group is a nomadic space between Berlin and Cologne.
MI+ is a democratic cooperative production society. Its agenda includes openness to change, commitment to social participation within the group, for microcosmic explorations of the material.
The group wants to explore the entire range of associations rather than limit itself with dogmatic definitions of art – thus the symbolic and romantic has its place in the performance alongside soberly revealed material.
The artistic self-understanding of MI+ develops from the goal of practically experiencing new perspectives of social behavior. The project "Slow Space" targets the temporal aspects of democratic negotiation processes. To be able to hear all the opinions in the process of production, exchange and negotiation, to make all the positions transparent, a "productive slow-motion" is needed: the "slow space". Within this open form, every member of the group can submit motions. Also, every member can actively form the environment of the group and take responsibility for the development of the production.
Thus, it is not about the theoretical articulating of social concepts, but about concrete practical actions. The radical democratic space of the performance presents an exemplary manifesto which remains in a fluid state, ergo: in motion. Performance becomes a democratic process. This ideally lets the audience draw conclusions about utopian cultural and political developments.
In the process of production the proven specialists of their genre cross the boundaries of their disciplines. This transversality creates a new space of experience for each performer. They become professional autodidacts, in a positive sense, using this detour to find and develop new structures and linguistic grammars. This creates a space in which the performers’ needs and thoughts can be conveyed in an abstract form. How this looks and presents itself changes with each single performance. Success depends neither on the execution of result-oriented plans nor on the display of spectacular virtuosity. It is more about the attitude, the openness, the mood, about solidarity and intensity.
Thus performance becomes a creative process to which the members can contribute at any time. Rather than the focus being on the director, a concept and an action come into being in a process of multiple authorship. What comes into being in the performance is meant to be interpreted not only as an artwork, but also as a social organic field. The social structure of a free lifestyle is played with aggressively and affirmatively.
The component of architectural design also assumes an important role. By means of medial space techniques, subtle light effects, video installations and slide projections, discreet situational and optional spaces with shifting hues are created. These can be played in different variations during the performance. The interventions in the political space of the group are not primarily subversive; rather, they actively create an economy of acting in time.
Through this the desires of the group are articulated as a space-specific antithesis to what normally happens in these spaces. The social interactions are of just as much interest as the site itself: the group is interested in the social changes and performative qualities caused by physical movement in an artificial space. An esthetic sociology of space develops. Here art does not consist of models, paintings, drawings which can be sold and exhibited. The focus lies on the commitment to group dialogue, the social fabric itself. In its performance, MI+ stages its own democratic decision-making process.
The direct contact between body and space is essential. But the spectator is not held at a distance. Instead of being hermetically contained, the real-time setting leaves the audience with a question: to what extent can we see our own utopias and life-perspectives reflected in the performance? The positions are left as clear and transparent as they are open. The term of "Fluxus" and of individual mythology is expanded to include the dimension of modern body-techniques and social imagination. The body converges with the political discourse. Performance becomes the space of the political, the "Slow Space".
Art becomes a platform of interactive production-processes. The radical nature of the uncertainty and the active affirmation of contingency make a political claim - in the sense of a practice of the peripheral and the Other, in the sense of a work within difference.
Politics is always connected to language. To work in a self-creating and self-defined way, the language has to be changed and redefined. An economical balance between context and the intervention between "understandable" and "new" has to be created. New conceptual fields and forms of action appear. Instead of restricting itself to ready-mades, the group tries to create its own new, intense and complex forms of expression.
The performances of MI+ do not work with didactic tools, but try to mobilize the spectator’s political awareness through the exemplary free-spirited form of action. Exposure to freedom means taking a practical position. Power, vehemence, the rebellion against form are significant for the manifest character of the performances, which, despite the confusing focus on small details and contingent movement sequences, always understand action as the Transparent and the Political.
The core of political art allies itself with poetry, becoming an embodiment of poetry in space as an expression of the future as what is possible. The symbiosis of carefreeness, aggression, an urge to take the offensive and free esthetics reveal the social realities, which are normally hidden beneath the surface of official politics.
Each encounter causes a change. Each movement causes a change. And that again is the Political. The performances are living tableaus which reflect the development, the life situation and habits of the group and weave together the different personal views of each artist on his or her autobiographic histories.
The ensemble MI+ finds a clear expression a very unique style – here, however, style means having no style.
Transformation as a concept implies the questioning of the status quo and the experience of something new. New connections between daily life and art are explored, different positions towards one’s own history and present are plumbed. A localized world dissolves in the democratic "Slow Space".
Old coordinates disappear and new hybrid identities develop. Instead of attempting to give big answers to big themes, the focus lies on designing new possibilities of experiencing the political and the social and opening up a interactive transformational field.
Live cameras and sound-files generated by real-time sampling function not only as a collection of digital data, but as something material which carries a message about the motives and the movements of the unique personality of each member of the group, including the unique personalities of the others in the context of the whole concept. An inner form of telematics arises.
The staged space becomes an installation which can be operated and played with and which is permanently changing. With pre-produced fragments, interactive elements, spontaneous body-dialogues and freer Fluxus-moments, MI+ constructs and improvises its stage version of interacted group solidarity.
But certain questions are intentionally left open: Is it still possible to conceive of actions which do not automatically create isolated spaces? Doesn’t an affirmative answer shade into an imprecise "no"? Do we really want to act together with the others? Is the social still combinable? Isn’t sociability constantly overwhelming? Which wishes and needs can be addressed to the Social today?
Against the background of these questions MI+ sees its performative concept as a critical interface between artistic and politic communication today.