amifusions body as archive
A Workshop Report between Decoloniality, Burnout and Emancipation in Times of Pandemic Neoliberalism
what, wherefore, why
amifusion was founded in 2018 by Ami La Star and uly at a dance school in Senegal. By means of dance-theatre performances, win-win-win situations are developed. The original idea was to generate money to survive and conquer stages for Ami La Star (first win), to free Ulrike Kiessling from her zombie existence through dance (second win), while entertaining an audience (third win). The resulting Zombie Laboratories consist of 12 performative experimental arrangements that conceptually build on each other.
Conceived as a money and knowledge redistribution project, we have since grown together with Gonzalo Ramos Castro, Valentina Menz Nash and Anita Maïmouna Nehaus into a monstrous intercontinental punk performance collective at its core, working between music education, choreography, theatre, bomber jacket business (follow on insta @bmbr_amifusion) and self-exploitative wage labour, always on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Initial situation: The 12 zombie laboratories
The Zombie Laboratories emerged from an encounter. The dancer operated on the archivists body posture while the latter brainstormed on political posture and de/colonial questions: the body itself corresponds to an archive.
Monotonous work, bingewatching, capitalism, ballet, the dances of the Amazons or the fisherwomen; different cultural techniques, sensibilities and perceptual aesthetics produce different bodies and attitudes to the world. What does this mean for a decolonial practice? The bureaucratic, capitalist, colonial machinery produces paper for the archive. Access to archive and infrastructure is regulated by interests and power in addition to democratic legislation.
But there are worlds that are handed down differently than in the hegemonic understanding of archive as an accumulation of writing, text and paper. How are histories recorded/written that take place beyond a logocentric world, for whom are these pasts un/hearable and un/visible. Does this have something to do with resistance?
After the archivist visited Ami La Star, they decided together that Ami La Star should travel to Europe to free us from our zombie existence. Due to the hurdles posed by the European border regime, we created the first performance De/ZombieFiktion. This marked the zombie-ness of us, which cannot be localised and yet is internalised, which wants to be overcome through radical narrative-shifting and through dance.
The zombies brought a deeper engagement with subjectivities in the context of the de/colonial. What kind of critical knowledge does the body convey, what is told about our conditions of subjectivities and how? What conditions of possibility underlie our perception of body/s? How can experiences in the context of the body, historical memory, trauma, connectivity, relationships and in terms of interrelational thinking undermine hegemonic systems of knowledge? When we no longer understand each other because the language, the text is not enough, we have to bring something else into play.
Zombi, Zombie, Zombii
Stories about zombies do not only take place in pop culture, comics, videos and films, but have a long tradition in rituals, myths, religions. We assume that we are constantly updating ourselves. Even Marx pointed out that "the tradition of all dead generations can weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living ". Without the rehearsal of new experiences, we cannot emancipate ourselves from the old.
In their "Zombie Manifesto", zombie experts Sarah Juliet Lauro and Karen Embry trace the stages of development from zombi to zombie to zombii and explain the respective subjectification strategies that produce them.
Lauro and Embry start from the Haitian zombi, a body that was raised from the dead. In the context of the Haitian revolution around 1791, this is thought of in categories of slave and slave rebellion. And that is where the zombie of the last century comes from, the American import of the Hollywood monster, representing various social concerns.
The zombie can also be a metaphorical condition, and in its cultural appropriation represents capitalist and increasingly viral contamination. These contemporary capitalist zombies are mostly identified with smartphones glued to their hands, crouched running. As a metaphor, this zombie reveals much about how we code subjects as unworthy of life. Can't we actually care less if someone has crouched running and their smartphone as a hobby?
The zombie in the 21st century has changed, he/she/it/_ no longer has to be undead at all, but can also get through life alive.
In Lauro and Embry's manifesto, a future possibility of the zombiis is ultimately proclaimed, following on from posthumanism. They conceive of a possibility of an unconscious being that is a swarm organism and the only conceivable monster that could be truly posthuman.
Zombii is perhaps the only being that carries the possibility of producing something else beyond race, class, gender, beyond all forms of discrimination and oppression, something that can be thought beyond the ductus of humanity, in the posthuman sense, to escape from our mess of unequal distribution and injustice. A thought experiment that shows the limits of posthuman theory and claims that we could only become posthuman after the death of the subject. Unlike Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto", Lauro/Embry do not assume that the position of the zombie would be a liberating one - in fact, the zombie would mostly be a slave in their story and metaphors. Their intention is to illustrate that the irreconcilable body of the zombie (both living and dead) highlights the inadequacy of the dialectical model (subject/object) and suggests with its own negative dialectic that the only way to become truly posthuman is to become anti-subject. In the context of the Treibstoff Festival 2021 in Basel, we will try out live becoming an anti-subject for a moment by means of zombiification.
The anti-subject: a collective monster
So over time, our collective expanded and we began to work between Ouagadougou, Basel, Santiago de Chile, Berlin, Leipzig, Cotonou, Biel, Bamako and Yaounde.
Our overstrain is the pulsating heart: no common language, no money, no common place. All these conditions result in chaos, determination and enthusiasm for working together. Whether pataphysicist, dancer, comedian or game designer: together we search for emancipatory paths.
Our different realities of life, sensitivities and experiences are shaped by conflicts, which, with the right method, become insights. We understand our conflicts as the material. The aim of the laboratories is to formulate the questions in such a way that we can generate insights that could shake hitherto hegemonic knowledge and manifest injustices. Our method is to make the conflicts visible in order to radically rethink narratives.
Hearing loss, deafness, broken heart, sprained foot, genital herpes, depression, marital problems, typhoid, malaria, stress, burnout, capitalism, neo-colonialism: by means of the anti-subject's attempt, we did not want to talk about the cure, but about the wounds. Thanks to our numerous conflicts, we achieved above-average consciousness-expanding insights through collective bodies.
“eigentlich sind nur die Dinge, die nicht funktionieren, interessant”
Treibstoff im Gespräch mit Ariane Andereggen