How to Behave
Grant Watson, in collaboration with Frederique Bergholtz, Adva Zakai, and Veridiana Zurita
08 May 2012, 7pm
The Kitchen: New York

In the first week of May, If I Can’t Dance commences a weeklong rehearsal period at The Kitchen in New York, leading to a performative iteration of Michel Foucault’s 1983 Vanity Fair interview How We Behave. The project is part of a new Performance in Residence research project by associated curator Grant Watson, in collaboration with If I Can’t Dance’s director Frederique Bergholtz and artists Adva Zakai and Veridiana Zurita. The rehearsals are structured around a mode of gathering material from invited guests and New York residents, based on Foucault’s idea that bios itself could become the material from which art is made. Through exercises and questions that focus on certain activities from a person’s life, an attempt is made to interpolate some of the particular character and personalities from the city. On Tuesday 8 May the preliminary results of the week are presented in a performance and public conversation.

The Vanity Fair interview How We Behave forms the core of this research project. Foucault comments: “What strikes me is the fact that in our society art has become something which is related only to objects and not individuals, or to life. That art is something specialized or done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object but not the life?” Elsewhere Foucault expresses his fascination with the idea that biositself could become the material from which a work of art is made, and identifies a precedent for this in antiquity. By using classical texts, Foucault is not suggesting that people repeat the practices of the past, but rather that they try to invent new forms of subjectivity which might start from aesthetics.
For this initial exploration of How We Behave, If I Can’t Dance collaborates with The Kitchen, a center for video, music, dance, performance, film, and literature. The Kitchen was founded in 1971 as one of the first American institutions to embrace the then emergent fields of video and performance art.