- Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance by André Lepecki
André Lepecki's Singularities: Dance in the Age of Performance has a revolutionary ambition: overturning the "perform or else" ethos of neoliberalism by following lines of resistance from within experimental choreography. He employs experimental dance as a mode of critical thinking to problematize neocolonial capitalist management over corporeality and subjectivity. Examining post-2000 performances by choreographers predominantly from the U.S., South America, and Europe, Lepecki detects five directions in which subversive choreography gathers or imagines a new community of singularities that expresses "freedom beyond liberal individualism": thingness, darkness, animality, persistence, and solidity. Each chapter presents these directions via close readings of dramaturgical and choreographic structures of his case studies, juxtaposing them with theories of immanence, posthumanism, visuality, temporality, and black studies.
Drawing from the philosophy of Simondon, Didi-Hubermann, and Deleuze & Guattari, Lepecki defines singularities as "modes of collective individuation" or "actualization of a difference that matters difference in the world." These productions refuse to circulate as legible and exchangeable signs that reify the complexity of experience into user-friendly commodities. Rather, singularities inhabit events in which human and nonhuman bodies, affects, and temporalities gather momentarily and peripherally, risking their recognizable identities for generating forms of coexistence. Lepecki proposes that choreographic experimentation becomes a site as well as a method for the unfolding of singularities as such.
Instead of using his theoretical frameworks to explain his "objects," Lepecki lets his cases elucidate (and in some instances, challenge) the overarching claims of these critical discourses, grounding them in actual performance events. In one chapter he looks at performances with matter and objects, such as Maria José Arjona's Untitled (Part of White Series), to discuss a choreographic understanding of "thing" in which human and non-human bodies break out of the Cartesian subject-object dichotomy to form lateral, unruly, and amorphous entanglements. Lepecki traces these choreographic things in the interstices of dance and visual art of the 1960s as he repurposes Brazilian visual artist Hélio Oiticica's term "objectato." Elsewhere, he groups a wide range of reenactment pieces from Xavier Le Roy to Richard Move as "chronopolitical operations" that both challenge the [End Page 111] notion of authorship and, by turning the body into an archive, revitalize the singularity of works they return. The latter is an intricate meditation on the dialogue between Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History" and Ralph Lemon's collaboration with Walter Carter for performance film 1856 Cessna Road. Here we read of how an encounter between two African American men across generations intensifies into a precarious dance—a dance which is, at the same time, a relic from Carter's centennial life and an apocalyptic feedback between past and future of the American South. While it remains to be seen whether the singularities Lepecki describes can converse with other performances, especially in non-Western contexts, he establishes a distinctive poetic register and theoretical premise for producing politics through dance today.
EYLÜL FIDAN AKINCI is a doctoral student in theatre at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Her research interests include dramaturgy, contemporary dance, physical theatre, object performance, new materialism, transfeminism, and necropolitics.