“But the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold on it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs…”
—Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
In September 2012, in preparation for the premiere of E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E, Daria Faïn staged Begging #1 Detoxification of Preconceptions about Money. In this performance at Dance New Amsterdam, she performed an intensive public fast for one full week. About the fast she wrote, “With this practice I am bridging (1) funding in performance, (2) begging in both the monastic tradition and streetwise sense of panhandling (3) and the crisis of poverty, all in order to raise awareness of the positioning of the role of the artist in society and the role of funding. I'm positing that performance is a direct service to society.” Her begging performance was both a meditation on the unequal distribution of wealth and a way to prepare her body/mind/sprit for the epic social undertakings of E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.
Daria Faïn and Robert Kocik have worked together to establish what they call The Commons Choir—as part of a field of research committed to exploring “language as sound, embodiment and utmost expression.” Their artistic/performative work extends into and incorporates “architecture, health, education and socioeconomic justice.” Faïn and Kocik envision the artist as a necessary social actor who critiques dominant power arrangements and mends our collective ails. Thus, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E is an experimental ritual that aims to mourn and heal the current economic crisis.
Faïn is an artist, performer, teacher and choreographer; Kocik is a poet, sculptor, and teacher—both renaissance people in their own rights. Their work understands and postulates that the body is a force unto itself, but also exists as an object, symbol, and target of systemic powers and pressures. The body is a material representation of the ways we exist in relation to the social (dis)order. In her essay "How Can We Have a Body?: Desires and Corporeality” (2006), psychoanalyst Susie Orbach writes, “All our known ways of being create physical and neural pathways that become constitutive of self, not just on a psychological level but on a physical, material level.” Much like Foucault, she believes that our bodies are constituted by the social discourses that shape them. She asserts, “bodies are made, not born,” meaning that we become our “selves” through repetition of language and social practices. Accordingly, E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E begins with a performer asking us, “What’s the difference between uncirculated money and heart disease?”
Nothing. There is no difference. Social discord manifests as personal dis-ease. The social body is becoming in the physical body.
Our relationship to our bodies mimics the perpetual privatization of space and resources. We are socialized to dominate our bodies, to “own” them, and shape them to meet idealized consumer standards. In 1975, Foucault wrote an essay called “Docile Bodies,” in which he concluded that the more a body is coerced by dominant social forces, the more equipped it is to reproduce these same disciplinary forces unto itself and others. The more "productive", economically viable, and groomed for service our bodies become, the less political force we have because we have become isolated in narratives of individuality and exploitation, ensnared in the competition and tyranny of the market.
But Faïn and Kocik’s dance/ritual is a disruption of these expectations as well as a proposal for something new. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E rejects the dominant socializations and regulations of the body and aspires for agency through collective embodiment. This performance strives to call attention to the ways that economics live inside of our bodies and are embedded in our relationships. It strives for a togetherness that transcends our prescriptively limited ways of knowing one another that are often dictated by transactional exchanges and predicated on a (false) separation between self and other. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E features a huge, unwieldy cast to represent the magnitude and power of the populace and to counteract the effects of insidious individualism, privatization, and alienation. Faïn and Kocik have enlisted these bodies for a different kind of service—to resist dominant economies and to create alternative ones; to relocate and reconstruct individual bodies within the social body. Through this resistance and radical, social embodiment, Faïn and Kocik create what Foucault termed “dangerous communications,” which are connections that threaten the expectations of the dominated, docile body.
No longer legible, solely, through its sheer production potential and identity as an individual, Faïn and Kocik attempt to heal the fragmented infrastructure of self by unifying language, movement, and value of the “common” social body. They perform “the commons” as an antidote to rugged individualism and work to create a new human architecture that questions our current ways of being in the world. In this, the body is re-imagined as a kind of collective, contemplative, architecture—a new architecture of the body politic and the body poetic. E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E is a reparative gesture and an offering; a much needed social experiment and salve.
E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E runs October 31 to November 3 at New York Live Arts. More information about the performance is available here.
"The Architecture of E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E" was originally written as a part of New York Live Arts’ 2012-2013 Season Context Notes.
Photos courtesy of New York Live Arts. © Julieta Cervantes.