As part of the Imagining Post-Capitalism Festival, we will post on our blog relevant work, text, ideas, and documentation of the multitude of festival events, scheduled to take place in Oakland and San Francisco. THIS is our FIRST blog post, featuring Oakland-based artist Tanja London .
Tanja London is a kinesthetic, visual, and haptic artist based in East Oakland, CA. She grew up in Germany rummaging around in the beautiful widespread forests of the South as well as in her WWll family history. Querying social and hierarchical constructs is an integral part of who she is. Her work has a feminist viewpoint and explores sociopolitical and ecological discourses such as the erosion of democracy, inherited stress and trauma, the cultural impact of military technology, and resilience. Besides a BA in Social Pedagogy and Contemporary Dance she majored in Math and Art in Secondary School, holds a MFA in Modern Dance including a Screendance Certificate and is a certified STOTT Pilates® Instructor.
REDEFINE and CAP capitalism!
I thought I would never experience the erosion of democracy in my lifetime … I thought the sacrifices over generations were too great to give up their achievements so easily – so soon …But here we are …
The recent years and decades for me are reminders for that nothing is constant if there is not a driving momentum behind it – even if it has the best of intentions. To say the least – these last decades have been a very humbling experience and the last couple of years were rather an ironic slap in the face.
Picture this: Me … born in the Seventies, the second and last child of German parents who were children in the Second World War. I … growing up in prosperous Germany with a good education system yet under an old parenting style shaped by experiences and convictions gained in an era, which was obsessed by power structures, control, shaping a nationalist identity, hygiene, genetics as means of survival and betterment of the species and the utter repulsing results of those abysmal crimes against humanity that we all know under the heading of the holocaust.
My whole life I was and still am trying to come to terms with that history engraved in my cell memory … While doing so I was pointing fingers at my grandparents and parents …. but today – I have to point at myself … What am I doing? What can I do? What are my perspectives … possibilities?
Back when my grandparents were still alive, I was blaming them for not being part of the resistance to the National Socialist Party in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I was blaming my parents for their white supremacist and racist viewpoints… but as I have to learn today … here I am … discovering thought forms buried in my own perspectives that are shaped by my own white supremacist upbringing. Here I am living in a world that experiences a massive lateral shift to the right and what do I do? What can I do? What are my perspectives … possibilities?
I did not join the political resistance – just as my grandparents did. I am not a politician or active in that arena as I simply cannot deal with the dynamics attached to that field of taking action. I am an artist … one of many who for their labor do not get adequately compensated or heard. A profession I honed for decades, Dance, is now practiced in my spare time. Driven by passion, conviction and anger I try to learn more, understand more, express what I do observe and try to discuss issues with the public that I think are vital for the further sociopolitical developments … all species and entities included.
Well, the following films are what I can do … ‘occupation’ and ‘KAPITAL’ were made with the intent to spark one of these discussions: a discussion about democracy.
Do we still live in a democracy? Is capitalism a premise for democracy? How can we redefine and cap capitalism?
It is interesting to read about democracy in the Journal of Democracy’s Fall Volume in 2016:
“The correlation between wealth and democracy implies that transitions to democracy should occur primarily in countries at the middle levels of economic development. In poor countries democratization is unlikely; in rich countries it has already occurred. In between there is a political transition zone; countries, in that particular economic stratum are most likely to transit to democracy and most countries that transit to democracy will be in that stratum” (Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late twentieth Century, 1991).
But as wealth is eroding for the general public, so is democracy.
By now you probably wonder … why choose the media movement and film to express concerns about the current state of democracy? You might think Screendance or Dance Film is a strange medium to ask these questions. You might be right, but I rather think that the abstract quality of this art form can lead to rather interesting debates as they do not start from a concrete, logical argument but rather with a kinesthetic experience and an open to interpretation audio visual impression. Watching the films, I hope, leaves you questioning in the first place what the heck you just saw rather than delivering a logical or offending point straight forward to your frontal cortex. It opens the discussion to all and does not harden into the two-camp — the ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ mentality, which with logic it seems you cannot perturb.
Furthermore, I am just in plain love with improvisational approaches and inquiries … Movement for me is an embodied Science and the inquiry of Movement Improvisation a practice of freedom in itself. Think about it … where do dictatorships or any hierarchy of power start to control the masses … it’s the body – it’s the mind. The body shapes the mind (Gallagher, 2016).
But in the end … you tell me if these films spark an interesting starting point to ponder the erosion of democracy. I am still experimenting with the genre and this technique that I call ‘concept translation’, an artistic process to combine theoretical and studio research. You are the better judge if these films are actually doing what I am hoping them to do.
So … write me … tell me what you think!
Tanja London: FILMS:
occupation, Tanja London
occupation explores the erosion of democracy – a state of uprootedness in the continuing context of the events of the Iraq War and the World Financial Crisis of 2008.
The film features three movers: two dancers and one building. In 2009, the Odd Fellows Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, a five million-pound building underwent an engineering feat when it was raised eleven feet off its foundation and moved in one piece. Interleaved footage of the dancers and the building in motion illustrates their correlation— it formulates a question … do we still live in a democracy?
KAPITAL, Tanja London
KAPITAL asks what the actual capital of a democratic society is and if capitalism is the premise for democracy. These performative explorations and experiments for a social form in development were developed for the 2016 theater dance production “Salon de la Démocratie or Capital and … “ by tatraum projekte schmidt from Düsseldorf/Germany.