Veem House, 10×10 November: Movement

Last year, Veem House for Performance in Amsterdam launched the series 10×10. It is a series of 10-day curated programmes across the season, in which artists and audiences, local and (inter)national, come together to investigate the concept of performance and the future of the theatre and production house. Triggered by a need to be present year-round, the concept is a follow-up of the 100 Day House statement that Veem made when its funding was drastically cut a few years ago.

Keerthi Basavarajaiah and Antonia Steffens were invited to curate 10×10 November, this season’s final programme that responds to the topic of movement. The two School of New Dance Development (SNDO) graduates invited Raoni Muzho Saleh, Nico Roses, Mami Kang and Matthew Day, a collection of independent artists active in the Dutch performance art scene. The works shown are all at different stages of creation: Steffens presents the premiere of her work An Attendee, Basavarajaiah, Muzho Saleh and Kang re-stage their graduation works, Day tries out new ideas for a new piece, and Nico Roses invites people to an open studio where they can paint and move. 

On 2 December, I see Mami Kang’s solo, Transmissions. It is the piece with which she graduated from SNDO last year. We are gently drawn into Kang’s physical realm, a deconstructed flow of sharp movements intertwined with soft gestures. Impressively, she hardly ever stands vertically and dances through the work with ease.
Afterwards, an artist talk among the curators and the invited artists unfolds. Steffens and Basavarajaiah loosely moderate the talk. They start by asking “What moves you right now?” In the course of the following hour, I listen to a collection of poetic answers to movement-related queries, and reflections on our current climate that lack definition. Recurring aspects are the question how to be with people, rethinking our relation to spaces and imagining futures, but the too lightly moderated talk doesn’t land with me. It remains superficial when it comes to truly addressing the concrete situation the cultural field finds itself in at the moment, with the COVID-19 restrictions and the financial strain. The participants share a language and mode of expressing conceptual thought that belongs to the specific niche present this evening.

Mami Kang - Transmission

Transmission by Mami Kang

In fact, all the guests of this evening are part of the same institution: they are either SNDO or DAS Choreography graduates. I wondered how to approach this very fine line between a nepotist tendency of giving work to friends, and simply facilitating a caring space within your community. 

I am convinced that these decisions were not taken without careful consideration. I have performed alongside some of these people and have known them for years. In an interview Veem held with the pair, published on the website, Basavarajaiah acknowledges that the current context dictates the tendency to be exclusive. She explains this is due to a number of factors, one being funding requirements. Steffens reinforces this notion, saying that in times of meagre resources, alliances surface. All in all, the two say, it is testament to the lack of consideration performance and dance receive in times of struggle.

While questioning and corrupting hierarchies is a vital practice in the arts and beyond, I can’t help but feel a slight discomfort with the curators programming their own works and answering their own questions during the after talk. What is the responsibility of Veem, as an institution, but also of the curators, as individuals? How can independent makers address our current situation? How liable are we when struggling with precarious means?

It is a harrowing task to look out for oneself, while also sharing what little resources you have. I wonder if we are able to exceed our own bias. Thinking in line with what seemed to be the evening’s intention of “opening a joint space”, perhaps Basavarajaiah and Steffens should not have been called curators, but rather facilitators. Or the whole event might have been presented as a friendly encounter among this specific area of the field.

Feature photo: Paulina Prokop (An Attendee by Antonia Steffens)

Programme Veem