At first, there are a couple of voices. “Okay, so just hold it. Just hold it—don’t do anything, just hold it.” A man emerges onscreen and centers himself in the frame between stalls at a market. A caption tells viewers that this scene is in Beijing, and as the city is revealed, the man begins to dance. Sort of. He shuffles his feet forward and back, and his arms hang loosely, moving in response to the displacements of his feet. He appears next in Hanoi, and then in Delhi, doing this same movement. In Bangkok, he seems a bit hesitant, even rigid. But in Moscow, he thrashes about freely. “Keep going,” prompts an offscreen voice in Los Angeles, and he does—from city to city, circling the globe with his “dorky dance,”1 rocking his upper body side to side, popping his feet up underneath him like he’s running in place, and swinging and poking his elbows while his hands and arms flail about.
A one-time video game designer,2 Matt Harding emerged as an internet celebrity in the mid-2000s thanks to the video-sharing powers of social media. At the urging of a friend, Harding began recording his quirky signature dance in the sites he visited, which he edited together into several videos, including two sponsored by Stride, the makers of a chewing gum who liked the idea of Harding’s “ridiculously long dance round the world.”3 As one might imagine, although the videos retain core elements that maintain consistency across the various iterations, Harding’s dance style, and what it achieves in relation to global populations, shifts over time. In the 2005 and 2006 videos, Harding dances more or less alone against a backdrop of each exotic locale. In 2008, Harding extends an invitation for others to join him in his unique style of dance. And in the 2012 video, Harding relinquishes the safety of the dance that made him famous and learns dance styles and movements from those with whom he shares a space and a screen. In this chapter, I use Harding’s videos, which are all listed under the title Where the Hell Is Matt? on YouTube,4 as a way to think through questions of how artists and social media contributors imagine the world, not only as a theatrical representation, but also as a performative achievement.5 In particular, I ask how they employ the contributions of the crowd in imagining a global community, and how dance participates in this articulation of a worldwide together.
In his introduction to Art and Multitude, Antonio Negri suggests that art manifests a capacity for “reinventing the world.”6 However, he qualifies art’s ability to achieve beauty, the traditional domain of aesthetic practices, requiring that expressive acts “transform themselves into a community . . . embraced and contained within a common project.” He continues, “The beautiful is an invention of singularity which circulates and reveals itself as common in the multiplicity of subjects who participate in the construction of the world.”7 It is not my objective in this chapter or in this book to pose the question of the beautiful. Yet Negri’s understanding of art’s deployment of the immaterial and affective labor of the multitude, and the collaboration of art and multitude in exposing a common through projects of world-making, captures the central ideas I explore in this chapter: that many contemporary performance practices attempt to create the world anew, and that they turn to the crowd or multitude to assist in this project of creating a global community that shares in an affective orientation to the world.
I pursue the notion of a globally scaled common through several screen-based dance projects created between 2005 and 2014. In addition to Harding’s Where the Hell Is Matt? series of videos (2005–12), which I consider throughout the chapter, I analyze the dance film Globe Trot (2014), choreographed by Bebe Miller and directed and edited by Mitchell Rose;8 the single-channel video installation Mass Ornament (2009) by Natalie Bookchin;9 One Day on Earth the Music Video (2012), directed by Kyle Ruddick and edited by Cari Ann Shim Sham* to music by DJ Cut Chemist;10 and the band OK Go’s interactive music video All Is Not Lost (2011).11
To analyze the ways these pieces go about creating common worlds through dance and in the space of the screen, I turn to philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, whose thought is central to this chapter. For Nancy, the world no longer makes sense because globalization has replaced the world with a mere globe. Globalization, according to Nancy, is nothing other than the world destroying itself. In the absence of an orienting world, there can be no sense or meaning to grasp on to, and this feeling of being estranged from the world, which is an estrangement from meaning, is, as Paolo Virno remarks, “an inescapable and shared condition.”12 Parsing the loss of sense as the new common sense of the contemporary world, Nancy posits the French term mondialisation, or “world-forming,” against the English term globalization, which refers to economic globalization and to the world as an abstraction or frictionless world of commerce.
Attempts to make sense of the world, for example, through artistic practice, are not only attempts to come to terms with catastrophe, violence, austerity, alienation, displacement, or ecological crisis, though such themes are certainly present, as will be seen later in this chapter. Nancy asks, “How are we to conceive of, precisely, a world where we find only a globe?”13 In making sense of the world, I argue that the artists and works I explore in this chapter are also attempting to make-world from the space of globalization. To be sure, a single world is insufficient for Nancy as well as for artistic practice. There are worlds upon worlds in the world. “A world is a multiplicity of worlds, the world is a multiplicity of worlds, and its unity is the sharing out [partage] and the mutual exposure in this world of all its worlds.”14 In the same way that Girl Walk//All Day (2011–12), discussed in chapter 2, and 24 Hours of Happy (2013), discussed in chapter 4, are love letters to specific cities (New York and Los Angeles, respectively), Where the Hell Is Matt? and the other works analyzed in this chapter are love letters to the world—to the planet and to humanity. Through various techniques of composition and editing, each of these digital and video pieces focuses on humanity explicitly around the world—not just global North and South or East and West but from as many regions as respond to their calls for participation. Each piece generates a sense of the world; thus I turn to questions of sensation and affect in sharing in a world and the importance of fragmentation, or what Nancy calls fractality, in presenting this world as a being-together that is singular plural. A sense of the world, while being a shared sense, must remain multiple.
Globalization has both enabled and complicated the project of representing the world such that artists can no longer reasonably justify pursuing such a representation alone. As a result, the projects I discuss in this chapter employ crowdsourcing as a technique of composition. Delegating content generation to the crowd enables a planetary scope impossible except for very rare and highly mobile individuals like Harding. I argue that all of these pieces invest in the globe, in Nancy’s usage, as a site from which to create a world. They engage in a process of suturing a world together through shared choreographies or shared gestures that form the linkages necessary for being-with or being-in-common. Turning toward a global human community, each employs processes of delegation or crowdsourcing to gather material from which to create this world. Before turning to the question of how dances might engage in the work of creating a world from the space of globalization, I first consider the broader phenomenon of contemporary artists relying on the creativity of the crowd in participatory art practices.
Like interactive media, discussed in chapter 1, crowdsourced content is now so ubiquitous as to require little explanation. Crowdsourcing is a process of harnessing the knowledge and creative input of a large population, but that large population might be fifty people, or it might be 5 million. Those who utilize techniques of crowdsourcing espouse a belief in what James Surowiecki calls the “wisdom of crowds”—left to their own devices, the collective intelligence of a crowd is comparable to or may even surpass that of a few well-trained experts.15 Crowd-generated content functions particularly well where users are engaged in the collective production of knowledge and debate (Wikipedia, blogs), products (beta-testers and focus groups), maps (Google Maps), assessments (rating and review sites such as Yelp or Amazon), and the sharing and development of open source software (GitHub). In such instances, the collective labor of many participants will, in theory, produce more accurate results delivered more quickly to better serve a business or community than could be provided by a few knowledgeable people. This model tends to overlook that crowds contain experts (as well as bad actors) and that dedicated amateurs develop expertise over time. Nevertheless, crowdsourcing lowers barriers for participation, especially for the purposes of digital cultural production.
A similar approach to crowdsourcing has been applied as a technique of artistic composition in what has been called participatory, relational, and socially engaged artistic practices. Art critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud has been a vocal advocate of relational art, which often takes the form of immersive, participatory, transient experiences. In addition to being disciplinarily ambiguous, Bourriaud remarks that the relational art of the 1990s onward manifests a desire to produce greater conviviality and create social bonds, and to do so through art as an encounter or curated experience rather than through representation alone. In this way, art promotes “learning how to inhabit the world in a better way.”16 Bourriaud argues that the place of art is no longer to imagine and represent alternate realities and utopian elsewheres but to directly impact the lives of those who participate by offering “ways of living and models of action.”17 In other words, art should not be contemplated at a distance but engaged and experienced immersively. Theater scholar Shannon Jackson likewise argues that the experimental performance pieces she describes as “social works” offer an opportunity to examine “what it means to sustain human collaboration [and] contribute to inter-dependent social imagining.”18 These contemporary experimental arts practices critically reflect on the enabling conditions of both art and sociality, mobilizing themes of lending and withdrawing support to transform art-making into a form of world-making.
Not all art or cultural critics admire relational works or structures of audience participation or collaborative authorship, however. Claire Bishop, for example, forcefully argues that artworks that take shape through the participation of audience members risk duplicating the structures of neoliberal capitalism, requiring affective investments and uncompensated labor as part of a larger “experience economy.”19 Theater scholar Jen Harvie also remains skeptical of some of the claims that have accrued around participatory arts practices, noting that relationships tend to be short-lived and superficial, though she finds social and political value in what such work attempts. Where Jackson emphasizes mutual support in the performing arts’ social turn, Harvie offers a stronger critique with her use of the term delegated art to describe the situation in which “people who are not, nominally, ‘the artist,’ make or contribute to making, the art or performance.”20 Again, there is a range of participation that falls under this general category of art-making. Artists may invite spectators to participate in artworks fully conceived and executed with little difference in concept or substance despite audience engagement, or they may turn over key aspects of the artistic experience to collaborators, workers for hire, or audience members. While, according to Harvie, delegated art can show how artistic practices are inevitably “socially embedded and socially dependent,”21 they can also “conscript audiences and others to produce work for which they are not properly attributed authorship” and implicate them in social or ideological projects with which they might not otherwise affiliate.22 More than participatory or relational art, the concept of delegated art reflects the political and economic ambivalence of artists collecting contributions from the crowd to compose a digital or video work such as those explored in this chapter. Although I argue that these works are engaged in the larger project of creating a world from crowd, it is impossible to ignore the fundamental paradox of crowdsourcing content, which promotes extracting contributions or requiring voluntary labor in the name of inclusivity and equality.23
Delegated or crowdsourced art is fueled, ideally, by an ethic of volunteerism on the part of participants and informed by participatory and open arts practices on the part of project directors. Such methods of artistic composition exemplify the ways in which what Virno describes as the generic capacities of the multitude are put to work24 and are increasingly commonplace as a technique of composition. The extent to which artists rely on the crowd varies across projects, as does the size of the crowd to which they turn. For example, after his 2005 and 2006 videos gave him quasi-celebrity status, Matt Harding tapped into his global fan community to create evocative and playful scenes for his 2008 and 2012 Where the Hell Is Matt? videos. The contents for Globe Trot were crowdsourced from a small community of choreographers and filmmakers, while the content for One Day on Earth the Music Video came from a very large community of documentary filmmakers. Some artists seem to wish to remove themselves from the process of content creation, receding into the background but providing conceptual architectures to organize contributions, while others exert a stronger influence on what content is generated, for example, in what Mitchell Rose calls “instructional collaboration.”25 In either case, crowd-generated movement functions as raw material that is combined into a larger whole.
Just as the level of audience or fan involvement in delegated work can vary, some web-based pieces can continue to incorporate crowd submissions over a long period of time. OK Go’s All Is Not Lost interactive music video has an unlimited number of possible participants drawn from among internet users. Described as a “video dance messenger,” it invites user participation in the form of messages to the victims of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In this way, All Is Not Lost differs from the hyperdances discussed in chapter 1. Viewers are invited to contribute a message that becomes part of the work, displayed at the end of the song in a global get-well card to the Japanese people in the wake of disaster.
As Harvie notes, attribution of authorship is vague in situations of delegated creativity, exacerbated by the fact that these pieces reflect a networked or internet logic in which the assumption is that contributors are part of an anonymous crowd—just like those who leave product reviews on Amazon. For example, Harding does not give credit to the many participants in his videos, despite their centrality to the overall effect of his Where the Hell Is Matt? series. Mitchell Rose credits the contributing filmmakers but not dancers in Globe Trot. In analyzing dances that utilize such methods of delegated or crowdsourced composition, I do not presume that these works achieve their aim of cultivating fellow feeling, or that, if they do, this translates into any lasting repairs to the social fabric that would result in, for example, policy changes that extend support on a large scale. Even so, I argue, following Nancy, that each of these pieces begins from a place of globalization and, to a greater or lesser degree, works to create a common world. Crowdsourcing their content from participants around the globe, these pieces imagine the social sphere not as national or regional but as global. They leverage the networks that economic and informational globalization have made available to assert a world in the place of an abstract globe, to create a world from a crowd.
In chapter 2, we saw how professional and amateur artists turned to an aesthetic politics of the street and the public in recuperating an Arendtian space of appearance, or what Nancy might call a staging of coappearance, by gathering en masse in public spectacles of extraordinary and coordinated gestures of communitas. These public spectacles exemplify Nancy’s claim that “to-be-with is to make sense mutually, and only mutually.”26 Yet, their self-imposed scale of performance is the city or the locale. The videos circulate across space and time and continue to create ruptures in the representational field and thereby continue to impact the material world (from which representation is not separate), but their global reach is an effect of their circulation, not their composition or production. The fabrication of their being-together is localized. In contrast, the pieces in this chapter imagine a much larger common—a global or planetary common from which to make sense of the world. Over the course of the next sections, I follow the evolution in Harding’s Where the Hell Is Matt? videos to consider how artists move from an abstract globe to a worldly world, beginning with the world as picture. From there, I move on to examine Nancy’s formulation of the world as ethos, praxis, and habitus, which I argue configures the world as performative—something that is brought into being through its enactment as well as its representation.
Picturing the World
Harding takes up space. He appropriates space to himself regardless of other occupants. Locating himself in the center of the frame, Harding dances around the world. In his 2005 video, a collage of destinations across Asia and Eastern Europe, Africa, and North America, he dances in urban venues surrounded by people as well as in remote settings where he dances alone. Both of his 2005 and 2006 videos are set to the Deep Forest song “Sweet Lullaby,” but in the Stride-sponsored 2006 video, an astonishing number of his sites are unpeopled. The 2006 video begins in Bolivia at Salar de Uyuni, a salt flat where the bright blue sky and cumulus clouds reflect in the shallow water below, merging heaven and earth. Harding walks into the frame. His feet skim the water and leave a small trail behind him. As he arrives center screen, he turns to face the camera and begins to dance. In contrast to the 2005 video, which captures a few impromptu interactions with locals and other tourists, in the 2006 video, if there happen to be others within the frame, Harding pays them no attention. With a few exceptions, for example, among Buddhist monks in Laos and children in Rwanda, they also ignore him. Harding dances on a bridge in Venice as pedestrians pass behind and a gondola emerges from underneath. He dances in a crosswalk in the rain in Tokyo, while a crowd of people maneuvers umbrellas around him and each other without stopping. He dances with giant tortoises in the Galápagos Islands, kangaroos in Australia, walruses in the South Shetland Islands, elephants in Botswana, and jellyfish in Palau. It is as if sponsorship has led Harding to reimagine the world as his stage, but his stage contains only scenery and no players.
Approaching the world as an exotic backdrop for a tourist’s pictures, Harding’s 2005 and 2006 videos are striking for the ease of his travels as well as their reach. Both videos could be tributes to the magnificence of the planet Earth and the architectural wonders of the world, except for the odd man dancing, who interrupts the serenity of jungles, glaciers, and deserts, challenging the silent authority of Easter Island’s Moai statues and Egypt’s sandstone pharaohs with his stomping feet and swinging arms. The sites themselves offer up no resistance to his appearance or his centrality in the scene. And he doesn’t seem to care much about them either: Harding states, “I’ll admit that as the dancing video goes, standing in front of the ancient stuff is largely obligatory. . . . But the Taj Mahal? Pyramids? Parthenon? To me, it’s just a pile of rocks that doesn’t say anything worth saying.”27 With rare exceptions, the evidence of which is banished to the outtakes, Harding seems able to move into these sites comfortably, without hindrance and without any recognition of the appropriateness or inappropriateness of his dancing in the sites he has chosen.28 When stopped by security for dancing at the Parthenon and briefly jailed for what amounts to belligerence, Harding made clear that, while he wanted access to world heritage sites, he did not bother with the rules governing such access. He recollects his encounter with security on his blog:
“What you are doing is disrespectful.”
“I don’t think it’s disrespectful.”
. . .
“It is against the rules.”
“What rules? Show me the sign that says No Dancing.”
. . .
“Listen to me. The Parthenon may mean nothing to you, but to us it is a HOLY RELIGIOUS SITE!”
Oh really? And when’s the last time you made sacrifice to Athena?29
Harding’s voluntary continuous displacement, not to mention his release by Greek authorities despite his refusal to delete the Parthenon footage, stands out as uniquely privileged. He giddily prances from one place to the next, flattening the world with his gregariously stomping feet and claiming connections that involve no labor to produce except his own circulation, a global access and freedom of movement facilitated by the color of his passport and the currency of corporate sponsorship.
In Harding’s 2005 and 2006 videos, the globe seems to exist for his own personal enjoyment. He stands outside the world, stomping across the face of the planet-as-playground. Harding features in these films as a godlike proxy, organizing the world around him; there is no coexistence in these videos. What is presented onscreen is, in a rather literal way, Harding’s worldview. As Nancy remarks, “a world ‘viewed,’ a represented world, is dependent on the gaze of a subject of the world [who] cannot itself be in the world.”30 Here Harding is the subject of the world, but even as he offers viewers his own worldview, by placing himself at the center of the screen, and by extension at the center of the world, the world is not directly the object of his gaze. It is, rather, the gaze of the camera that functions to transform the world into a picture: Harding faces the camera while the camera faces the world.
In addition to framing the world as picture for online viewers, the videos facilitate Harding’s transition among places by erasing the act of “getting there” in what digital performance theorist Gabriella Giannachi describes as “hypertextual travel.”31 Giannachi is referring in part to the virtualized travel seemingly made available by internet technologies, which render events and people present-at-a-distance.32 Hypertextual travel involves “no real movement.”33 “Everything happens,” Giannachi remarks, “without us needing to go anywhere.”34 Through video editing, Harding creates just such an experience of hypertextual travel for online viewers. The labor of his travel is compressed into an instantaneous scene change in a flat world without obstacles. Imagining the world as picture, Harding appears in each image but is not really a part of any scene. It is as though he has pasted himself, free of context, onto each background, and differences among sites have been eradicated in preparation for his entrance. Geographic sites have been rendered flat, interchangeable postcard backgrounds for Harding’s image. They are a collection of souvenirs, which, representing a tourist’s travels, are more important in the diversity of their collection than their intimacy with each locale. Harding generates a flat hierarchy that equalizes but also radically de-differentiates these locations, reducing them to color or flavor. A shot of one could easily be replaced with another without fundamentally changing the work.35 As highly interchangeable backdrops, any site can suffice to suggest the one-dimensional idea that it’s a small world after all.36
With the 2005 and 2006 Where the Hell Is Matt? videos, what appear onscreen are postcard pictures of the world as globe—familiar sites and scenes that collect and represent rather than present the world. Their representations of the world are deeply located within globalization, the economic situation in which images and currencies travel the world more freely than human beings. As Nancy remarks, “it is as if there was an intimate connection between capitalistic development and the capitalization of views or pictures of the world.”37 This is an exacerbation of what Heidegger, on whose work Nancy builds, described as the “world picture”: “Understood in an essential way, ‘world picture’ does not mean ‘picture of the world’ but, rather, the world grasped as picture. . . . The being of beings is sought and found in the representedness of beings. Where, however, beings are not interpreted in this way, the world, too, cannot come into the picture—there can be no world picture.”38 It would seem that a capacity to imagine a world depends on an ability to picture it, to represent it as an image. Without this image of the world, the world itself cannot be imagined. This is the problem to which Where the Hell Is Matt? addresses itself: how do we imagine the world? The picture brings a world into formation, but within Nancy’s framework, this world as picture is an impoverished world. It is the world as globe—not an expansive worldly world but an abstract totality. How else might a world come into the picture without removing its inhabitants to make room for a single “bumptious foreigner”?39
We Are the World
When watching the 2008 Where the Hell Is Matt?, one is immediately struck by its difference from the 2005 and 2006 renditions. Whereas the earlier videos feature Harding, center screen, with other people appearing in the frame only as background or part of the local color, in the 2008 video, residents of the places he visits join him in an enthusiastic display of collective joy at dancing badly. The idea for including others in the videos came from a scene shot in Rwanda for the 2006 video. Harding recalls, “I went out to this village and started dancing, without any explanation of what I was doing. As soon as I started dancing, kids started joining in, and within a couple minutes, all the kids in the village had circled around and we were all dancing together.”40 Also toward the end of the 2006 video, Harding is joined by a small group of goofy dancers in San Francisco, all imitating his punching, swinging, stomping dance, and in Seattle, a couple of children join him in front of the Fremont Troll. These exceptions became the rule for 2008. The change seems to have struck a chord with viewers, since the 2008 video has logged about two and a half times as many views as the 2006 version.41 “Sometimes Mr. Harding dances alone,” notes Charles McGrath in the New York Times, “but more often—and this accounts for much of the video’s appeal—he’s in the company of others . . . all copying, or trying to, his flailing chicken step.”42
The first ten scenes connect the 2008 video to its predecessors: situated among prayer flags in Bhutan, in a field of vibrant red tulips in the Netherlands, on a Christmas Island shore full of crabs, at the foot of the Teotihuacán Pyramid of the Sun in Mexico, Harding dances alone. But just shy of a minute into the video, a rapid sequence of shots overwhelms viewers with waves of people rushing from either side to fill the screen. Harding, who remains roughly center screen, is suddenly immersed in crowds of people to the point where he momentarily disappears in the throngs of others who have come to dance their own rendition of his little jig. McGrath continues, “There is something sweetly touching and uplifting about the spectacle of all these different nationalities, people of almost every age and color, dancing along with an uninhibited doofus.”43 Harding invited dancers who had participated in the 2008 video to leave their impressions and connect with each other on his website. Celene exclaims, “Oh, Matt, I have goosebumps, you’ve done it again! Thank you so much for bringing us the world, one bad dance at a time!”44 Roemarie writes, “It brought me to happy tears because it is pure joy, no politics, no attachments, no stress, no problems, just people having fun together doing the same thing (dancing badly) at the same time, all over our big beautiful world.”45 Devin Weiss comments, “Your video is truly a beautiful thing expressing how we all are together in this world . . . and all love to Dance!”46 Comments such as these reflect a desire among participants and viewers to feel globally connected and to imagine themselves within a human community that exceeds national borders. Though Harding remains at the center of the video as the reason for the crowds that gather around him, as McGrath points out, the video’s focus on people besides Harding offers a different sense of the world. Instead of dancing alone in front of aesthetically pleasing backdrops, as a tourist might, Harding invites local residents to share the screen with him, and it is their participation that makes the video meaningful to viewers.
Globe Trot, a collaboration between filmmaker Mitchell Rose and choreographer Bebe Miller, with crowdsourced contributions from dancers, filmmakers, and everyday people around the world, opens in a manner similar to how Harding has structured his videos. It begins with environmental sound. A woman walks directly toward the camera on a Stockholm street, but she is a red herring. A man takes his place just off center as the first chord sounds. A second chord deposits viewers in Yokohama, Japan, and a third in Papua New Guinea. A drumbeat adds another layer to the sound track, and the locations come more swiftly, highlighting the differences among people and peoples, locales and locations. For the first several shots, participants just stand, looking at the camera, letting their presence register with viewers. As with Harding’s videos, architecture plays a crucial role in placing the performers, but even more so, because Rose has not labeled the locations, making viewers even more reliant on distinctive landmarks to identify them.47 Some locations, however, are less recognizable or more abstract. The Eiffel Tower, a pagoda, a village, a farm—Globe Trot travels across all sites equally and easily, regardless of their fame or relative anonymity.
Before they could craft Globe Trot, Rose and Miller had to recruit participants, inviting others to share in the vision of the film. They first circulated a video describing a very strict protocol to potential contributors and further gave detailed instructions on Rose’s website,48 including images, sample videos, and a downloadable manual describing the requirements in detail. Whereas Harding provided volunteer dancers with his iconic step to organize their participation, Rose and Miller provided volunteer dancers with brief sections of choreographed material. Each participant was assigned to shoot two seconds (four counts) of Miller’s choreography on the assumption that, while performing an entire choreographed dance would be difficult for most people, almost anybody could perform two seconds of movement.49 In his detailed documentation, Rose indicated where the filmmakers should place their cameras in relation to the dancers and where each dancer would need to begin and end the assigned microphrase of movement so that, when Rose edited all of the clips together, not only would the choreography continue seamlessly despite changes in filming locations and performers but each dancer would pick up the phrase in the precise spot onscreen that the previous dancer had just occupied.50
Globe Trot focuses less on the geographic locales as such and more on their presumed inhabitants. Although there are some group shots, most of the film focuses on one performer at a time, which has the effect of individuating the participants, who might otherwise be reduced to tokenized presences. An ode to the world and our common humanity in an era of globalization, there are no specific efforts in Globe Trot to assure viewers that the performers and places are what they purport to represent. Indeed, some of the participants are international students studying at U.S. universities, and others are tourists traveling abroad. Rather than criticize the film for a lack of “authenticity,” a critique predicated on essentialized notions of identity, I find it more useful to consider the film as a reflection of the negotiation between human mobility and representations of cultural belonging. By not disclosing the filming locations in the film itself, as Harding does, Rose allows viewers to make their own judgments about what ethnocultural identities and geopolitical locations the bodies onscreen represent. He does not falsify the filming locations to preserve a direct correlation between person and place, but neither does he call attention to the discontinuities that globe trotting produces. Rose edits together disparate contributions from all over the planet, including Antarctica, to form a cohesive world picture. The final result is a choreography that unfurls across continents, tying scores of people together in their mutual participation in this crowdsourced dance film.
When watching a rough cut of Globe Trot, Rose recalls Miller exclaiming “I love people!” which is exactly the response he had hoped for.51 Similarly, in responses to the 2008 Where the Hell Is Matt? video, participants and viewers comment on Harding’s presentation of the world through its people. As seen with participatory and delegated art aesthetics, it should not come as a surprise that people—we ourselves—should be a focus of contemporary art. According to Nancy, previous eras in the European intellectual tradition made sense of the world by positioning a god outside of it. But now, the fields of art and philosophy mutually participate in resolving a distinctly postmodern crisis in meaning by making the world itself meaningful. The meaning of the world is, precisely, us, Nancy contends. We are the meaning of the world.
Like Harding and Rose and Miller, media artist Natalie Bookchin turns her attention to the crowd and exhibits their contributions in the single-channel video installation Mass Ornament (2009). Whereas Rose’s approach enabled him to create a continuous work in which Miller’s choreography organized the gestures of contributors in advance of their participation, Bookchin culled videos from YouTube. Using these videos as raw material, she both composed the dancers’ bodily movements in relation to each other and choreographed the ways these YouTube clips appeared and moved as multiple small frames on the larger screen. Instead of providing a specific avenue through which movement donors could choose to participate in the project, Bookchin gathered what had been made publicly available online and devised a new composition from the activities in which the performers engage.
Organizing the video clips into similar color palettes and movement themes, Bookchin creates a spectacle for the information age. Mass Ornament refers to the essay by Siegfried Kracauer in which he situates the precision dances of the Tiller Girls in a postwar capitalist frenzy of production. If, for Kracauer, “the hands of the factory correspond to the legs of the Tiller Girls,”52 Bookchin’s kick line of YouTube videos comments on the circulation of movement and the repetitiveness of seeming individuality in our own time, as well as the introduction of surveillance technologies into domestic settings. Many fixed cameras peer into many homes as different women in various stages of undress walk into separate frames. A surfeit of women look in mirrors, lean into video and web cameras, pose in front of furniture, face their cameras, and begin to dance. They salsa and belly dance and pop and twerk, offering greater diversity in their movements than either the 2008 Where the Hell Is Matt? or Globe Trot. They kick and spin, backbend and handstand. Throughout, Bookchin combines like videos with like—a row of six variations on the yoga pose Natarajasana (dancer’s pose) or nine “Single Ladies.” Linking these videos side by side seems to be Bookchin’s preference, as one might imagine a kick line of dancers linked arm in arm, but the videos also accumulate, and their spatial relationships change the shape of the whole. Sometimes videos even seem to snake across the screen. Bookchin gives shape to what has already been shared, transforming the sharing of others into an image of shared culture and identity.
Bookchin’s invocation of Kracauer and sonic references to the Busby Berkeley film Gold Diggers of 1935 and Leni Riefenstahl’s film The Triumph of the Will, widely viewed as Nazi propaganda, suggest that her portrait of “us” has different political stakes than the other pieces discussed thus far in this chapter.53 Bookchin is more ambivalent about the in-common that she screens. In making “us” the subject of Mass Ornament, Bookchin raises a host of provocations and questions, not least of which is the extent to which global informational capitalism promotes the domestication of surveillance technologies. If we are the world, Bookchin troubles the economics and politics of such self-regard. Dance scholar Ramsay Burt, for example, observes that Mass Ornament is among contemporary dance works that “have a radical edge that prevents them from being absorbed into an abstracted, apoliticized worldview that tends to divert any critical potential into a too-often platitudinous, universal narrative about emotional experience and the individual’s freedom to express this.”54 Burt’s critique of shallow contemporary arts discourse could easily apply to Where the Hell Is Matt? and Globe Trot, which summon emotional responses from viewers in their portrayals of being-together, and which use dance for the purpose of choreographing postpolitical planetary harmony. Still, like Where the Hell Is Matt? and Globe Trot, Mass Ornament orients viewers toward a larger sociality by making “us” ourselves, as documented and shared via social media, the meaning of the work. This orientation, Burt notes, “can allow beholders to imagine possibilities for renewing the common space for social and political relations.”55
In his reexamination of the meaning of the world separate from a god as both the condition for and the meaning of human existence, Nancy builds on Heidegger’s consideration of Mitsein, or the dimension of Being (Dasein) that is being-with. Nancy contends that there is no Being as such or for itself. There is only being-with. For Nancy, Being is irreducibly this being-with. There is no existence except with this “with,” no self without exposition toward others and especially no self prior to others. Being-with is not an addition to Being, then. Instead, the self, if there is one, “is nothing but the exposition. . . . It is being-unto-others.”56 Everything that exists is plural, everything that exists coexists, and because all existence is irreducibly coexistence, Being is sharing in a common world: “the world is the coexistence that puts these existences together.”57 In addition to being-with, Nancy names this irreducible condition of existence being-together, being-in-common, and being singular plural. Each of these terms reflects what Nancy considers irrefutable: that there is only a “we,” and that this “we” is not a question of “cohabitation or contamination,”58 and especially not of communion but of ontology. This being-with is not manifested in adjacency, proximity, or shared space but is a relation without relation, an in-common that is not a common being, as though community were identical to consensus. The in-common is a shared sense that links or “enchains” as world.59 Hence, for Nancy, the with in being-with “must be both an ethos and a praxis.”60 As praxis, this “with” is constantly put into play between us. Although the “with” is the being of existence, it is not presumed as a given but must instead be enacted to create a world, which Nancy describes, among other things, as “an ethos, a habitus and an inhabiting: it is what holds to itself and in itself.”61 If being-with and world function as ethos, praxis, and habitus, then world is performative. A world is not made; it is enacted. It is practiced in relation, in the linkages that knot a world together. It is a praxis of non-self-sufficiency that “effects the agent.”62 Just as theorizations of performativity have demonstrated the emergence of meaning from repeated performances and the materially transformative effects of these performances, for example, as regards gender, so too is the world located in the repeated performances of being-with.
The Performativity of Being-With
Nancy understands world as ethos, praxis, and habitus. Interpreting this configuration as performative risks expanding the concept of performativity to the point where it is no longer useful. Performativity as an idea has already migrated and evolved substantially since J. L. Austin first theorized a certain class of spoken statements, which he called performative utterances, which did not merely describe or report on phenomena but actually introduced a change of state. He remarks, “To name the ship is to say (in the appropriate circumstances) the words ‘I name &c.’ When I say, before the registrar or altar, &c., ‘I do,’ I am not reporting on a marriage: I am indulging in it.”63 Provided that a speaker utters a performative under felicitous conditions,64 speech can transform people and objects. Speech is not merely a container for information to be transmitted between individuals. Speech can be a form of action.
Judith Butler in particular demonstrates the transformative power of language in her example of a doctor declaring “It’s a girl!” thus interpellating the child into a matrix of societal norms that give both the declaration and the so-declared body meaning and intelligibility.65 Gender identity is thus embedded in language, and though statements about gender differences seem only to describe such differences, they actually constitute those differences and further articulate them in gestures and behaviors. “Such acts, gestures, enactments generally construed, are performative in the sense that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means.”66 Carrie Noland, among other dance, theater, and performance theorists, takes issue with Butler’s conflation of corporeal and discursive domains, arguing that, while bodies may signify, “the gesture and the word inhabit different registers of experience as well as signification.”67 The expressivity of being-together is not limited to discursive signification; other logics also participate in constituting a world or in creating a sense of the world.
Nancy, like Noland, does not overemphasize language and naming as what makes sense, meaning, and world. Instead, he points to ethos, praxis, and habitus.68 World is not, however, poiesis—a mode of fabrication attributed to the artist who stands outside of a world of her own making. Stated differently, world manifests in moral character, practical action, and bodily disposition, through which world is enacted—not made. Though Nancy speaks of creating the world, he does not speak of world-making, as making suggests finality and completion. Instead, the world is incomplete, inoperative (désœuvré). Enactments of world through ethos, praxis, and habitus cite previous scripts to remain meaningful, but they continuously bring a world into being through new, incomplete, ongoing action. Again, according to Nancy, the world no longer derives its meaning from a god-creator who made it. Instead, the meaning of the world arises from its inhabitants. We ourselves imagine, create, and sustain the world. A world, that is to say, being-with or being-in-common, is a physical practice and disposition, a performative enactment that presences the world with each enactment of it. We might suggest, employing Virno’s language, that the world is virtuosic. It produces nothing other than itself, for no other purpose than itself.69 The world is a creation “with neither principle nor end nor material other than itself,” says Nancy.70 Performing-world produces world as being-together, as coexistence. Through this performance of the with or together, the world creates a sense of itself as that which, “in the course of being thought, itself become indiscernible from its praxis.”71
That the world is performative rather than poietic does not mean that there is no space for artistic representation in generating the space of the we or of being-in-common that the world is.72 Art holds within its purview the “(re)presentation of one another according to which they are with one another.”73 Maurizio Lazzarato further suggests that “images, signs and statements contribute to allowing the world to happen” and “create possible worlds.”74 Contemporary performance, including the participatory art mentioned earlier, consistently engages the ethos and praxis of being-with constitutive of world. It is not only a matter of representing possible worlds but also of bringing them into being. Undoubtedly, the pieces analyzed in this chapter do represent the world in some way, taking the globe as the focus of their investigation. But this representation is also a doing, a creation of a world by representing it, performing it, and cultivating feeling toward it. The works in this chapter represent the world as a being-together on a global scale, but they also create possible worlds, both the worlds within the world and the world as world (rather than globe). Artistic practices thus have a double capacity, Lazzarato remarks, to “contribute to allowing the possible to emerge . . . and to [contribute to] its realization.”75 As governments withdraw their support from social services, which are turned over to the market, artists reassert community or the in-common as “the foundation of being”76 that must be created continuously. Only through such infrastructure-building procedures can we repair or extend “world-sustaining relations.”77
As praxis, being-with presences world, a shared sense that gives meaning to existence, but this sharing cannot result in communion, lest a community achieve nothing more than its own annihilation.78 At the same time, existence is impossible without a common world, and globalization undoes this very world as common and as sense of the common. Instead of a world, we find a globe. It is not a question of reversing processes of globalization so as to return to nationalist or tribal modes of belonging and affiliation but of turning the globe into a common world. But a world, and the being-with that presences that world, must remain unfinished. The world must remain incomplete or unworked (désœuvré), inoperative or in process. Unity is not the goal of the continuous enactment of being-with. Nancy’s refusal of communion recalls Jacques Rancière’s discussion of consensus as that which covers over the disruptive politics of dissensus. As the engine of political action, dissensus tears through the fabric of the world and its particular distribution of the sensible; consensus shifts shared sensibilities and covers over these tears to bring an end to political action. Nancy, however, does not focus so intently on such violent ruptures, because for him, the question is how to regain sense, not how to redistribute it. Indeed, the creation of a world through shared sense would create problems for Rancière’s politics, since such a world would tend toward consensus. It is necessary, therefore, to emphasize the plural within Nancy’s singular plural. The world is the sum of all possible worlds, but this does not mean that they are in agreement. “The unity of the world is not one: it is made of a diversity, including disparity and opposition.”79 Perhaps this is why Nancy avers, “Being is together, and it is not a togetherness.”80 Togetherness suggests unity or communion rather than being-together as singular plural. Rejecting both globalization, on one hand, and communion, on the other, Nancy situates the world, and mondialisation, on the boundary between them.
Teetering on the edge of both globalization and communion, how and where is mondialisation possible? A world is a “genuine place,” says Nancy.81 Being-together is to be in the same time and the same place, with interpersonal as well as spatial relations holding a world together as being-with or being-in-common. But what is the place of this together if it is also “the distinctness of places taken together”?82 What does being-together-in-place look like? Where the Hell Is Matt?, Globe Trot, and Mass Ornament require technological intervention to join here with there in crafting a space of the common, or a space of being-together-in-place, on a global scale. Harding joins the globe together by traveling from site to site to perform and record his same dance, which he then edits together into individual videos. Globe Trot sutures people and sites together in a single choreographic sequence that unfolds around the globe as a collective endeavor. Mass Ornament multiplies the frames within the space of the screen to bring many dancers into view simultaneously. In each of these pieces, the dancers are linked together by the choreography. At the same time, in each of these cases, the choreography is completely uprooted; rather than being grounded in the dancers or the sites in which they dance, the choreography passes over and through their bodies without regard to who performs or where. Even when the dancers bring their specific places with them into the frame, the ability of the choreography to appear in excess of any particular body or space allows it to float as an abstraction outside of any particular instance as a commonly accessible set of gestures and movements.83 But this choreography, passing through and across the bodies of the performers, renders the linkages among participants apparent and thus makes the in-common visible. Where the Hell Is Matt?, Globe Trot, and Mass Ornament reach toward a planetary being-in-common that can only be articulated in a representational space in which the incommensurable can co-appear. In this representational space, viewers gain a sense of the world rather than a picture of an abstract globe.
Harding’s 2008 video initiates the exploration of a sense of the world, which he more fully develops in his 2012 video. In a few scenes, for example, in Papua New Guinea and South Africa, participants dance alongside Harding in their own style rather than adopting his, allowing for participation to be multiple rather than filtered through Harding’s own movement vocabulary. They maintain their individuality while being in proximity to Harding. But in Gurgaon, India, embedded in a hired troupe of Bollywood dancers,84 Harding momentarily arrests his own style of dancing to join in theirs. Deviating from his well-known aesthetic, Harding makes a radical gesture in letting go of his famous stomping step. For six beats, timed exactly to the music, he swaps out his swinging elbows for their diagonally stretched limbs, his fists for their mudras. In unison, their right legs extend and retract as their arms do the same. Soaring vocals and percussive chords amplify their movement: (right) out in out in, (left) out in. In previous videos, Harding was able to make space for others in the frame, but in 2008, he makes space for their gestures in his own body. In this way, Harding demonstrates a form of being-with that moves beyond proximity or adjacency toward an ethos, praxis, and habitus that enchain his body, through movement, to the Bollywood dancers surrounding him. Harding implicates himself in the gestures of others and, in so doing, links himself to the dancers whose gestures he incorporates, and without entirely abandoning his social location, he begins to share in their sense of the world.
Sensing a World (from a Globe)
Sense is social and cultural. It is world-forming, and it encompasses but also exists beyond language. Media theorist Laura Marks glosses the senses as “a source of social knowledge,”85 and film theorist Steven Shaviro suggests that sensuous perception of the world is meaningful without reducing sensory “data” to “self-conscious awareness or positive knowledge.”86 Anthropologist C. Nadia Seremetakis similarly describes the senses as media for the “involuntary disclosure of meaning [that is] not reducible to language.”87 To have a sense of the world, then, is to have an affective sense, a feeling of meaningfulness that is experienced without requiring verbal articulation but which is sensed in common. This is the task Nancy argues we are charged with: to create the world or a symbolization of the world from an “unworld.”88 This world-forming89 “can only be a struggle—of posing the following [question] to each gesture, each conduct, each habitus and each ethos: How do you engage the world?”90 Such is the terrain that Harding’s 2012 video begins to explore, that One Day on Earth the Music Video takes on with particular rigor as it enacts the world by screening a sense of the world, and that All Is Not Lost approaches as a worldwide archive of feeling. In each piece, a community or world holds together through linkages among its inhabitants, where belonging is sharing an affective sense that is the sense of the world, a sense of community or of the in-common.
David Pogue of the New York Times calls Harding’s 2012 video a “masterpiece,” noting that, because he learns some of the dances of the countries he visits, “there’s a feeling of collaboration, of immersion.”91 Shots from each location last only a few seconds, so the editing is extremely important in what vision of global modernity is crafted for viewers. “The goal was to make two years’ worth of improvised flailing look like it was meticulously planned from the start.”92 Whereas he had previously performed his same stomping dance in each locale, irrespective of the location or appropriateness, treating each site as an interchangeable background, Harding gradually moves over the course of his films to a more considered form of participation. In conversation with Pogue, Harding notes that for the 2012 video, he sought advice from choreographers Aiko Kinoshita of Seattle, Washington, and Trish Sie, who made her name choreographing music videos for the band OK Go. He played the Harmonix video game Dance Central to “learn the nuances of some well-known moves,” and then the other dancers contributed about half of the final dance movements.93 As a result, the 2012 video has very little of Harding’s familiar bouncy jig. Instead, he begins to dance with those whom he calls upon to share in the world of his films.
The first shots show Harding learning movements from other people: standing still, facing the camera in Rwanda, trying flamenco bracero (arm movements) in Spain, stepping through waltz foot patterns in Austria, attempting cheerleading in the United States and contemporary ballet in Syria. The next scenes show Harding teaching choreography to his hosts: disco arms in Papua New Guinea, leg crosses and finger snaps in North Korea. As the song lyrics begin, Harding and five others in Beirut advance toward the camera, snapping their fingers as they step, like the Jets in West Side Story. Subsequent scenes alternate between Harding trying to perform in codified movement styles from around the world and others joining him in simple choreography. Sometimes Harding even sheds his characteristic polo shirts and khaki shorts and adopts the clothing associated with a particular form or culture, for example, parts of a mask in South Africa,94 a thobe in Saudi Arabia, a pa’u in Hawai‘i, and a tuxedo in Austria.
In stark contrast to Harding’s previous videos, in the 2012 Where the Hell Is Matt? video, all scenes are group scenes. He attempts to share in the gestures of others and thereby to share in their sense of the world, a world that may be in conflict with his own worldview but which difference he nevertheless attempts to broker with his body. In turn, he invites participants to share in his movements. A sequence of shots alternates between gathered crowds reaching upward diagonally toward screen left or toward screen right, and they seem not only to follow on from each other like a wave in a sports arena on a global scale but actually to reach or grasp toward each other in a gesture of support and embrace across the planet. In these moments, the choreography of the edited images suggests that populations across the planet share a sensibility and an orientation toward each other.
To allow a world to be performed in the place of a globe, Harding steps back from the role he previously occupied as proverbial king of the world. Beginning in the 2008 video and fully in the 2012 video, he takes turns following and leading, bringing his body into alignment, as far as possible, with others. Allowing these new gestures to sit uncomfortably in his body, Harding disrupts his own corporeal consensus, which was predicated on his privileged mobility. In submitting himself to the gestures and movements of others, he concedes that to exist in a world is to coexist. Without others, in Nancy’s conception, there is only the abstract globe, a world without world. In learning as well as teaching new gestures and movements, Harding and the other participants link their bodies together choreographically, generating, as well as representing, a becoming-worldwide. Whatever discord might have existed in 2011 when Harding was recording, when the tensions of the Arab Spring were spilling into protest movements around the world, it disappears into the smiling faces of hundreds of people performing seemingly inconsequential dance moves. One Day on Earth the Music Video and All Is Not Lost similarly set themselves the task of generating the world as they represent it, and they also employ the contributions of the crowd to reflect a planetary reach.
On October 10, 2010 (10.10.10), November 11, 2011 (11.11.11), and December 12, 2012 (12.12.12), documentary filmmakers in every country recorded footage of whatever was happening wherever they were on that day. Participants uploaded their geotagged videos to http://www.onedayonearth.org/, where online viewers can see all submissions for each of the three years.95 Each time, Ruddick’s team pored through thousands of hours of footage to assemble a film from the contributed clips. In addition to a theatrically released film, footage for the 2012 film was edited as a music video. DJ Cut Chemist culled sounds from the One Day on Earth video clips and organized them into a music track, and screendance artist Cari Ann Shim Sham* edited the accompanying images as a music video. The music video (as well as parts of the feature-length film) draws more from video art aesthetics than from conventional music video96 or documentary film. Because the music video is organized around sound, namely, music, the onscreen images reflect the circumstances in which these musical sounds were created, including dances, festivals, and parades.
A form of music visualization, One Day on Earth the Music Video reveals its own underlying structure. The images appear onscreen when their attached sounds are heard. For example, when a mouth harp sounds, its Mongolian player appears onscreen; when an electric guitar cuts in, its Alabaman owner appears. As instruments and sounds layer in the musical composition, the relevant images are screened, allowing viewers to identify the sounds with their sources. The images in the music video do more than just mirror the musical structure, however. The pairing is not always exact, and video clips unrelated to the soundscape are interspersed with images that manifest a clear correlation. Shim Sham* has a background in tap dance, which has likely informed her approach to editing the music video in such a way that the images engage the music in a multilayered conversation that illuminates aspects of the musical structure while also playing with and riffing on the sound track. The screen is, at times, divided horizontally or vertically in thirds. Sometimes as many as six distinct scenes appear within the frame, while sometimes a single scene will fill the entire screen. Not all of the sound clips and visual images are of music making or dancing conventionally defined, but, like Bookchin’s Mass Ornament, the overall composition is both musical and choreographic. Scenes of a father and son pounding their woodworking tools in Afghanistan and women hammering their tall pestles into a mortar to prepare food are interspersed among other scenes of a North Korean dance festival, Maasai men jump dancing in Kenya, and a dancer voguing in New York. The images help to locate the sounds, which DJ Cut Chemist has composed into a global mélange. Without the onscreen images, the diversity of musical-cultural contributions could easily pass unnoticed as merely another example of global sampling in music production. Together, the music and images compose a sense of planetary humanity without reducing the distinctiveness of each cultural situation into a global hegemony.
What is interesting about this film is that, rather than forging global connection through the travels of a single individual like Where the Hell Is Matt?, or crafting such connectivity by subsuming others into a predetermined choreography like Globe Trot, the entire composition has emerged after the fact in postproduction, thus offering an image of the singular plural that maintains the singularity of the participants. Whereas Globe Trot and each of the Where the Hell Is Matt? videos construct their vision of humanity or sense of the world sequentially, One Day on Earth the Music Video is more like Mass Ornament in its mutual emphasis on simultaneity and sequence. Shim Sham* has found a place for each body, movement, and location in the space of the screen, which, as an abstract space, supports the co-presence of many scenes from around the world simultaneously, and the images are also linked by the complementarity of the sounds they produce. It is not about fitting the participants to a predetermined goal but rather about fitting the end result to its contributors. One Day on Earth the Music Video is a clear example of being-together without togetherness, of enacting a world that does not reduce its inhabitants to the same. “Each existent belongs to more groups, masses, networks, or complexes than one first recognizes. . . . The existent does not have its own consistency and subsistence by itself: but it has it as the sharing of a community [that] is cosubstantial with the existent: to each and to all, to each as to all, to each insofar as all.”97 One Day on Earth the Music Video gestures toward a common space where the globe can gather itself and make-sense or make-world. This is not only a representation of the world or symbolization of the world but a world as self-composition. Performing-world produces world.
DJ Cut Chemist has sampled the globe’s sounds, and Shim Sham* has edited its images, but their curatorial and organizational work amounts to an arrangement of senses of the world, leading to a world-sense, rather than a coherent and complete representation of the world as globe. Whereas the full-length film mediates viewers’ experience of the world through language and narrative, namely, a story of life cycles and the interconnectedness of beings, the music video advances no narrative. It instead offers a sensory world of sound and movement, music and dance, that works through what Nancy describes as the syntactic logic of sense.98 Sense can enchain a world in which incommensurability functions as its sole common measure,99 through coappearance in a “space of sense [which] is a common space.”100 This common space is created as it is enacted audiovisually, and DJ Cut Chemist and Shim Sham* have orchestrated this global cacophony into a sensuous composition.
Like sense, affect has been theorized as social and as experienced to the side of language. Indeed, sense and affect cover significant shared territory. It is through affective intensity that performance practices can cultivate—by enacting—fluencies of feeling that span emotional, sensorial, and intellectual domains, as well as feelings of being-with or being-in-common. Feminist theorist Sara Ahmed argues that feelings or emotions align “bodily space with social space” in affective economies101 and that, as a result, we must examine how emotions function “to mediate the relationship . . . between the individual and the collective.”102 She argues that affective objects, in particular, those societally designated as happy, “might play a crucial role in shaping our near sphere, the world that takes shape around us.”103 In performing the world as happy object, One Day on Earth the Music Video and other pieces examined in this chapter bring the world itself into viewers’ near-sphere and sensitize viewers to the world in a positive affective register rather than representing the world as a source of threat and uncertainty from which to retreat.
This is likewise the work of All Is Not Lost, which explicitly took form against the backdrop of era-defining crisis and catastrophe. On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a severe tsunami that devastated its port cities. Coastal populations were ordered to evacuate, but many people remained—either unable or unwilling to leave their homes. Some of the residents began shooting video of the tsunami engulfing houses and roads, depositing fishing vessels in the middle of their towns, sweeping cars and even buildings out of the way. As terrible as the tsunami was, its devastation did not match what was to follow in its wake: the nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive material from the Fukushima power plant in the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. As news reports updated viewers on explosions at the plant and the release of toxic radiation, there was a concrete understanding that these events were not isolated to Japan but impacted the whole world. Indeed, ocean currents would soon deposit debris and contaminated waste on far-away shores. In the weeks following the tsunami, the band OK Go began a collaboration with Google and the modern dance company Pilobolus that gestured toward a need to process this catastrophe and also for people around the world to express sympathy and support for those who had lost so much so quickly.
Directed by choreographer Trish Sie and performed by the members of OK Go and Pilobolus, All Is Not Lost is an interactive music video.104 Band member Andy Ross explains, “All Is Not Lost is a message to the world. But at the heart of this project is a love letter to Japan. . . . We started the project in the weeks right after the Japanese earthquake, and it was hard at that time, I think, for the globe to express the sympathy and empathy we all felt for the Japanese at that time.”105 Dan Konopka adds, “Part of what I think we’re hoping to achieve through this work is a kind of mediated intimacy where people are able to express their feelings and their desire to be part of a community of feeling.”106 The community of feeling that All Is Not Lost crafts is a distinctly global community, built of people around the world who were moved by this disaster.
For All Is Not Lost, the members of OK Go boldly don Pilobolus’s familiar unitards—here in aqua—and join with them in shape-shifting contortions. The musicians and dancers are filmed from below through a glass surface, creating kaleidoscopic effects in the style of Busby Berkeley,107 whose work served as an inspiration. Pilobolus is known for stacking dancers’ bodies, moving into and out of positions in such a way as to create fantastical images. Here the dancers and band members spend more time standing and sitting in horizontal relation to one another than vertically on top of one another. Powered by HTML5 as an official Chrome Experiment,108 All Is Not Lost begins by populating a computer user’s screen with several browser windows that move through the screen space seemingly of their own accord and that occasionally form a grid to amplify the dancers’ kaleidoscopic effects. In addition to forming abstract designs with their bodies, the musicians and dancers form letters with their feet, spelling out parts of the key refrain from the song: “all is lost / all is not lost”109 Users can close the windows or move them to new locations onscreen, but this form of interaction interferes with the piece’s overall visual aesthetic as well as the performers’ danced messages of support.
If the media industry has a tendency to represent the contemporary world through images of death and destruction that emphasize affective registers of shock and dismay, which may or may not provoke empathic identification and action from viewers,110 the pieces in this chapter promote images of a worldly together that bypass or short-circuit realities of violence and horror in favor of being-with. Theirs is a hopeful composition of being-in-common that covers over the conflict and struggle that is being-with, but they nevertheless optimistically extend the possibility of a world in common across, and not despite, difference. All Is Not Lost invites users to participate in creating this world in common in a moment of catastrophe. User contributions are minor in terms of overall composition—a typed message of support, for example—but significant in terms of affective intensity. In All Is Not Lost, each message is performed for its author first, who then chooses whether to share the message with others. However, there is no mechanism for the intended recipients to respond, so even as contributors to the music video evidence their participation in a global community of feeling, the work’s affective dimension is located primarily in the act of contributing and not in receiving an acknowledgment or response to that contribution. The intimacy of All Is Not Lost is therefore self-referential, an effect of reflecting back its repository of affects to contributors. This does not detract from participant experiences of this work as meaningful or cathartic for those who wish to post their messages of encouragement. But, as critics of participatory art have pointed out, it may stage a false relationality that disguises its indulgent individualism, promoting feeling in the place of action. It remains questionable, then, whether All Is Not Lost can generate a sense of the world from viewers’ affective orientation and whether a sense of the world can be sustained in the absence of such crises as the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Where the Hell Is Matt? from 2012, One Day on Earth the Music Video, and All Is Not Lost all offer a sense of the world as a sense of interconnectedness or a feeling of being-together, a social sense or social intelligence embedded in the ontological condition of being-with. Sensing a world is not only to sense one’s way through a physical existence and surroundings—clothing, coffee cups, cars, and so on—but to feel the world as a feeling-together, to feel the links that hold a world together through the ties that bind—constantly tying and untying themselves as Nancy describes. To feel the world or sense the world as world is thus to share an affective orientation to the common, to inhabit the world as a common world. This orientation must be shared; otherwise, there is no worldly world because there is no being-with, and all that remains is the world as globe. There is no world without others, there is no sense without others, there is no meaning without others. To make-sense is to make-shared or make-common. And yet, a sense of the world must not eliminate incommensurability, which, in contrast, globalization requires.
If a sense of the world is not shared as unified affect or as the same orientation, if a sensorium is not shared, but yet shared sense is what creates a world, how, then, to create a world? How are incommensurables linked together in a common world that maintains both their singularity and their plurality? Or as Nancy asks, “how to do justice, not only to the whole of existence, but to existences, taken together but distinctly and in a discontinuous way . . . as a multiple together . . . ?”111 The 2012 Where the Hell Is Matt? video, One Day on Earth the Music Video, and All Is Not Lost all engage in the project of performing-world and affectively sensitizing viewers to a sense of the world, but One Day on Earth the Music Video addresses itself to precisely the question of a “multiple together.” It does not impose a single choreography that can organize the world around it112 but allows an exposition of the world in co-motion,113 exhibiting shared capacities for sound and movement rather than shared vocabularies of music and dance.
Like Mass Ornament, the world as being-with screened in One Day on Earth the Music Video is presented as both a simultaneous and sequential together—many performers appear onscreen at the same time, but not all possible performers. The music video includes a wide representation from many individuals and many parts of the planet, which, by extension, implies a representation of humanity writ large. Yet, its inclusive imagery does not attempt to exhaustively represent all of the Earth’s inhabitants, which could only result in an image of the world as an abstract globe—as a chart or as data points that reductively eliminate “the difference of singularities”114 mutually engaged in enacting or producing a sense of the world. Instead, the music video sustains a synecdochal relationship between its world and the world through what Virno describes as the “individualization of the universal, of the generic, of the shared experience,” that constitutes the many or the multitude.115 The planetary reach of One Day on Earth the Music Video supersedes that of other examples in this chapter, offering a world picture much different from theirs. Rather than a dancing subject organizing the world in advance and outside of the world, or a single choreography that organizes all the participants in a single worldly composition, in One Day on Earth the Music Video, a visual choreography and sound score emerge from the worldwide participation of a multitude. Through their contributions, the planetary crowd enacts the world as a performative achievement.
The pieces explored in this chapter are global in scope, but by turning to the creativity of the crowd, they work toward the creation of a common world. They employ the crowd as a microcosm of the world, to which the labor of creating or performatively enacting a work and a world is delegated. This compositional approach, which relies on the voluntary labor of the crowd, leverages the realities of economic and cultural globalization to create a world from a globe by creating a world from a crowd. As these pieces show, the world is not given; it is enacted or performed in relation, in being-with or being-in-common. By bringing the world close, they initiate performative transformations of a global world into a worldly world. These pieces, to greater and lesser degrees, enact the world by feeling-, dancing-, sensing-, performing-world as together, thus generating a shared sense of the world. Performing-world on a global scale, these pieces not only offer representations of the globe as a world but, in that representation, contribute to the emergence of world from globe, of mondialisation from globalization.
Still, Harding’s series of videos shows that, while he moves in the direction of mondialisation over the course of his films, that does not preclude ongoing support of operations of globalization, as becomes apparent in a more recent tour of the globe. Having made coexistence a focus, and seemingly the terminus of his videos, Harding realized that participants’ desire to be part of something bigger than themselves is a desire that can be monetized. After his corporate-sponsored and self-funded trips, Harding crowdfunded a 2016 dancing tour of the globe, raising nearly $150,000 from more than four thousand fans via Kickstarter.116 Incentives for patronage included Harding’s promise to film in the city with the most funds pledged and Harding giving personalized tours of Bhutan—travel expenses not included.117 In other words, Harding moved from soliciting volunteered labor from participants in his previous videos to soliciting funds from those who wish to participate in the 2016 experience. He successfully transformed fans’ affective investment in the Where the Hell Is Matt? concept into a financial investment. In a particularly acute example of the collapse of labor and leisure, fans were willing to sponsor Harding’s travels in the hope that they might also be able to donate their labor in the form of their participation, without which Harding’s concept and brand could no longer function.118 Enacting the world as worldly thus offers no total or final escape from the maneuvers of globalization, which can reassert the logic of finance in places where it had seemed to give way to mondialisation. The crowd, whether local or planetary in scope, must thus engage in the continuous, ongoing, and infinished work of performatively producing the world through the praxis of being-with to preserve and create alternatives to the unworld of globalization.
This same tension between world and globe manifests with different language in the following chapter, where the distinction between dance as a practice of cultural belonging and dance as a catalog of gestural belongings has distinct market implications. Dance as an expression of belonging assumes membership within a community, or world, in which dances, gestures, and movements can circulate freely as gifts—that is to say, as shared embodied objects that knit a group together as participants both share in and contribute to a corporeal common. When shared beyond the confines of a community, for example, as dance videos circulate online, they can be abstracted and extracted from their contexts, or the worlds that give them meaning. Such abstractions facilitate the misrecognition of danced gifts for a universally available given, a common inheritance available to all for mining and monetization. Issues of belonging, credit, and debt and the sociality of dance as gift thus figure prominently in the final chapter.