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  • Dragana Alfirević

HABITAT, mon amour


Zapis Dragane Alfirević je nastal v angleščini, slovenski prevod bo kmalu na voljo.


The desire to dive into sharing of practices has started, at least for me, exactly one year and a half before it really happened: in February 2017, I have sent out an email to a group of around 10 colleagues from the Slovene independent dance scene.

Then, as well as much earlier, I have witnessed that many artists in the field of choreography are developing their own ways of working and their paths, but that these ways and paths are, due to the cultural policies and general production conditions, often left to be almost in the realm of their private sphere, the matter of their free time or manageability of paid and non-paid, visible and invisible, invalid and invaluable work. Also, instead of making the research, laboratory approach our inspiration and the basis for other segments of our work, the space for research was shrinking and becoming a burden for extra organization that was always needed or simply inexistent and melted into the everyday patterns. I thought I should approach my colleagues[1] and state that it is up to us to frame these questions as we see fit and as we think they should be put into practice, made visible and present. It was clear that because we ourselves lack resources to take care of this part of our work, it would always be forgotten, unsupported and invisible by the colleagues, our surrounding and by the politics. The response was unexpectedly strong; showing us that we all need to take care of this part of our work and that there is a lot to discover and research in this direction. This could be called artist’s practice.

My need was to organize a week or a ten-day long process, which would be self-curated, where we would have first of all enough time, maybe also some “unproductive” time, and do what we are doing when we are alone, but next to each other, what we are doing when we are NOT preparing a production and also when we switch off the presentation mode. It was clear to me that we have a wave of hyper production since some years, that we have enough of premieres, festivals, workshops, Facebook events, but that we don’t have enough time to dive into important questions having each other as witnesses.

Due to our busy days as hyper productive hardworking artists, theoreticians, curators and teachers, but also mostly parents of young children and household bearers, we did not manage to do it in 2017.

Luckily, we have Jurij Konjar who did manage to gather his organizational capacity to put together the event called HABITAT, which lasted from 11th to 16th June 2018. It was the third successive HABITAT; first one was organized in Barcelona and second in Athens.


I know the space of Stara elektrarna (Old Power Station) since October 2004, so practically since the moment it opened and I know it has been designed in the very beginning to become a rehearsing space, space meant more for work and less for presentation - something that was and is still missing in Ljubljana. In the meantime, it was changing due to the programming and production logic, to the trends and capacities of curators, artists and the whole scene, but today we can hardly say it is a “rehearsing space”. It is a classical venue, which sometimes is open to groups of artists to prepare their productions. The rehearsing, try-out, research, experimental element has been almost left out from the program of Stara elektrarna. Luckily again, the Bunker team, who is running the venue, was sensitive and pragmatic enough, to venture into this journey and support HABITAT to the point of making the venue home and working space in one. So it became around the clock living and sharing space. When I was approaching Stara elektrarna on the first day, I saw already from outside that the big windows were open and that all the doors were open, something was welcoming me, there was the feeling of lightness, the feeling that everything is possible, which is one of the most important feelings when we create. Already from the first moment, I felt huge space, air and support that can hold me and everything that I bring with me.

Then questions started to arise How can I be a reference point to myself? What do I do when nobody tells me what to do? How do I move when nobody tells me how to move? Are all the other people in the room observers, or doers, are they critical or supportive? Are they feeling this same strong sense of freedom and potentiality that I am feeling? Am I wasting my time here? Do others think that we are wasting our time? How can time be wasted? What is productivity and what is unproductive?

I again was not able to be there full time for 6 days, but the time I spent there was precious and I will tell you why.

We were there, sometimes 3 persons in the space, sometimes 8, sometimes 25, mostly 12. We did not only look for the differences between HABITAT and anything else that might look like a “classical improvisation jam session” – we were actively creating these differences by being there, moving, relating or not, by holding the space for each other. We had to practice finding out what our roles were – as no one invited us for a project, no one expects us to be there or to do anything special. We were not mere consumers or objects in attempt to satisfy the desire of the consumer – this was the first difference. The relations appearing in HABITAT was beyond consumerist mode and that is why we had to reinvent those roles constantly. Politically, this is the most powerful position one can take today, since all our days and moves are precisely choreographed, even when we think they are not. I had to deal with ideas of passivity and activity, also necessarily resetting what I think of active and passive. This relates also to the power of choice and the power to just be in the space – human characteristics that we are so rarely dealing with. We were creating an ecosystem and nurturing the feeling of sustaining it while it sustained us.

Because people were entering the space of Stara elektrarna as if they were entering their home: with sense of domesticity and care.

Because we did not owe anything to each other. Because nothing was expected of me and I had no expectations of myself. Because that kind of freedom is different than being on holidays. Because I did take a lot from HABITAT with me.

Sometimes it is enough that the potential exists and that everyone in the room can feel it, sometimes this state of potentiality is already an Event without the necessity that “something happens”.

Working in the field of performing arts, we are constantly dealing with the feeling that we are doing something for someone else, more than in other art fields and certainly more than in some other occupations. How to move towards doing something for ourselves - individually, but also ourselves as a community, as a group sharing the same interests, as a wider society? This, for me, has to do with being able to become a subject, through what you are the doing. Franco Berardi Bifo in his book “The Uprising - On Poetry and Finance” is speaking about the state we are in today; of making our work, as well as the results of our work, more and more abstract, about the virtualization of our lives and relationships. “How can we think of a process of subjectivation when precarity is jeopardizing social solidarity and when the social body is wired by techno-linguistic automatisms which reduce its activity to a repetition of embedded patterns of behavior?”

It is clear that techno-linguistic automatisms Bifo is speaking about are driving the process of deregulation of the relations between time and money, between work and money, between our bodies and our work, between our bodies and the bodies of others, and only massive capital is able to capitalize further on this state of things. We seem to be here only as conductors of the movements of capital, with which we have nothing to do in the end. Sometimes we do realize that we need physical presence of each other in order to be able to reflect, learn and grow and that only in the presence of others, where we “share the breath of other” something can really happen. Reading this makes me think that it is us and only us, us regardless which section of life or work we are coming from, who have to find and actively make sense of these relations again; it is us who have to make some sense in going to work every day, in waking up every morning, and pull ourselves out from the jaws of techno-linguistic automatisms Bifo is talking about.

There is a huge tendency in the world today to capitalize on work and efforts of others; curators and programmers, venue managers among us know this very well. We tend to observe and direct each other, offer opportunities to one another, often times without reflecting why and how and where all of this is leading. Collaboration, openness, togetherness, sharing, contribution, all of these become slowly (as well as us in the end) mere tools in the hands of the capitalistic moves. It is impossible to think these concepts outside of the force that is immediately appropriating them and using them as flags to wave, while at the same time misusing them.

The economy of HABITAT drives us towards multi-directional contribution without any clear or forced reciprocity, rather than towards one-way use of resources. It is not a system without economy – it is a proposal for new economy as the fact that no one pays and no one is paid creates other kind of economy, where other kinds of substance are exchanged, and the materialist conditions of this exchange are only a setting where everything happens. Also – I decide to be here, since my decision is not related to the sense of duty or job I have to do for someone. I am deciding to be here; therefore, this quality of decision shapes how I am here. By emancipating the autonomy of decision, we could arrive to the often misinterpreted idea of a common good - the space that belongs to all equally and to which everyone contributes actively in equal ways and of which all have benefits. So, instead of listening to a lecture or reading about common good, we can engage into practical setting where we practice it and where we can be part of it. Because at this point in history it is crucial to understand that “what is good for me is good for you and what is bad for you is certainly bad for me[2]”. Implementation and active shaping of the feeling of common good, instead of further sharpening the need for privatization of property, is the only way we as society can move forward, since it is one of the rare aspects of being part of the society that can let us have the feeling of belonging outside of private zone. And it is the duty of all of us to find ways in our daily life to practice this, beyond the realm of theory and language. It is also our duty to find models of sharing the resources we have in order to be able to practice the commoning and the communing.


In the basis of HABITAT lies co-existence. Co-existence, not as a romantic idea of fluid love and of anything goes, but rather co-existence as struggle with oneself and own preconceptions and ideas that we bring with us when we stand next to each other in the empty space. The participants of the Ljubljana edition have managed to put ourselves inside by putting ourselves also a little bit aside during this week, to hold the edges of the space but also be only another one among[A1] all of us. What is very difficult to understand, and one has to be there to understand it, is that HABITAT is not a rehearsal, it is not an audition, it is not a preparation for the project to come, it is not a workshop or a master class. And yet – it can become any or all of that, depending on who is there and how those who are there let the HABITAT unfold. It is a co-existence of different but compatible ways of work; maybe we can call them widely movement research or movement practices. One can be alone and isolated but connected to others. It is important that we are there with our bodies, that we can sense the breath and the ways of each other. That we can rely on each other and also be left alone but still in presence of other. That we have the luxury of practicing all of that, because we are humans and we have to be reminded and remember all the features that make us human. And to be human is exactly about articulating your own position by yourself, by practicing this articulation and also by sharing this with others.

HABITAT is a space which is, in its core, actively resisting the need for appropriation or direct capitalization of the work of others.


For a week we were able to make the invisible visible.

We took the freedom to share what we normally do not share, at least not in Slovenia. Perhaps we did it with and for a very limited number of people, but let’s not be afraid of also stating that we can’t have huge audiences in laboratories. Let’s say to everyone around us that if microbiologists and thinkers and politicians need time behind closed doors, which still makes part of their recognized (and paid and valued) work, that there is such a need also among us, who are involved in dance and choreography.


For a week we made the visible invisible.

Since we were together and we could observe, and learn from each other, from these observations something was materialized, something else than when we work alone. During this one week, if you had entered the space of Stara elektrarna, you could have witnessed what normally is happening outside of the audience’s gaze; you could have seen artists at work. We took this freedom to dive bellow the top of the iceberg, below what normally is appreciated (and funded and awarded and applauded) as “performing arts” and to go to the hidden and somewhat scary depths of it – researching bellow the obvious surface, researching also our relation to things such as authority, shame, proposal, fragility, togetherness, quality, reference, dialogue, and we were able to state that we need this space and that we should claim the importance of it, so it is not neglected by systems that organize our daily work and life.

Probably very soon we will ask ourselves or we will be asked: do we repeat HABITAT, how do we do it, what is to be done with these very special spaces, so that they do not become the opposite of what they are supposed to be? How to escape the everlasting need to refresh and renew something? How to do it practically, as it exists outside of any production modus?

How to repeat unrepeatable?

[1] Dragi vsi, upam, da ste vsi zdravi in dobro!

Z Dejanom sva se pogovarjala prejšnji teden, da bi mogoče bilo zanimivo da se to spomlad dobimo ljudje iz Slovenije ali pa iz Ljubljane, ki se ukvarjamo z različnimi praksami, ker se mi zdi da se o tem premalo ve ali govori ali izpostavlja - torej, prevelik poudarek je na načinih dela 6 tednov vaj in premiera in postprodukcija, nic se ne govori o kontinuiranem delu, kontinuiranem raziskovanju in javnih izvedbah, ki so malo drugačne od premiere ali ponovitve ali gostovanja. Mislim, da je to področje, ki veliko lahko ponudi vsem, a ki je, predvsem zaradi tega, ker išče drugačne produkcijske pogoje, popolnoma zanemarjeno in podhranjeno.

Sva se z Dejanom pogovarjala, da se mogoče zbere 10-15-20 ljudi, ne glede na estetske ali tehnične parametre dela, preprosto, ki se prepoznajo v tem, da razvijajo lastno prakso, ki jih to zanima, torej, improvizacija, movement research, drugačni načini uprizarjanja, karkoli kar je v nekem nenehnem raziksovanju in se gradi na neki ideji odpora do klasičnih načinov dela in išče in razvija lasten potencial in jezik.

Mislila sva, da se organizira en teden ali 5 dni kontinuiranega dela in izmenjave, preko delavnic, predavanj, odprtih treningov, karkoli kar bi bilo za vaše delo najbolj primerno, da je dogodek čisto samoorganiziran in samo-kuriran, da se obrnemo na par institucij, ki imajo prostor in niso odvisni od tega, ali bodo za prostor in tehniko dobili denar, in da se preprosto to organizira.

Vam konkretno zdaj pišem, ker mi je to najbolj očitno, lahko pa razširimo krog in povabimo še koga. Koga? Javite kaj mislite in ali bi bili zainteresirani, če da, kako to vidite in sploh, kdaj bi bilo za vas najboljše, da se to naredi.

Objem, Dragana

[2] Franco Bifo Berardi, The Uprising, p54 (semiotext(e), intervention, series 14


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