Resounding Conviviality

By Paul Domela



‘The Polyphonic Stage’ enacts an enunciative arrangement for multiple voices, technologies and assemblages in a laboratorial exploration of new subjectivities. It is important to contextualise the project against a background of xenophobic identitarian tinkering that currently devalues politics across Europe. Under the spell of what Paul Gilroy has called ‘post-imperial melancholia’, Europe has cloaked its racisms and increasingly produces cultural or religious difference in terms of irreconcilable civilisationism. This disavowal of the racisms that informed both its imperial and post-imperial politics allows for resurgent nationalisms, the construction of mythical value systems and more generally a cultural ‘whitewash’. It is necessary to imagine a multiculturalism beyond the rhetoric of assimilation or immigration in a Europe in which black or brown no longer designate ‘immigrant’ or ‘nieuwe Nederlander’.

This new conviviality will not come from the official – antagonising - ‘Islam debatten’ but from the street: sports, music, trends is where new identifications are tested and lived. This is identity formation distanced from psychoanalytical self-same ontological excavations, these social practices are unfixed, shape-shifting, dialogic, polyphonic and self-valorising.

However, to pit the resonances of ‘The Polyphonic Stage’ only against the charged political climate would pre-empt the event from auto-constituting its contingencies and processual openings. As the second part of A Certain Brazilianness, it succeeded ‘Mapping and Scripting’, a discursive workshop loosely based around heterogeneous tropes within Brazil’s post-colonial search for national identity: anthropofagia, samba, condomblé, Tia Ciata …figures of displacement of a dominant European elite that embrace/devour/sound the plurality of peoples and cultures that conjures Brazilianness. In turn ‘The Polyphonic Stage’ will be ingested and transformed through a third process of reflection, presentation and production as a website.

The format of ‘The Polyphonic Stage’ is conceived as a film set, with the participants scripted as producers and the location itself designed to allow for the different stages of filmmaking: scripting, shooting, editing, waiting, eating and projecting to occur simultaneously and to various degrees of contamination. As the project recognises, filmmaking increasingly becomes a tool - rather that a model - to shed new light on the workings of a ‘post-media era’. Where the instantaneous mediation of experience would recall the loss of aura, today a heterogeneous setting of cameras, live mixing, interviews, performance, light, sound and action attunes to fluid role-play in a technologically extended desiring machine.

This permeability of roles recodes the script through the incorporation of uncertainty, rebutting its deterministic circumspections with probabilistic auto-generative impulses that enable the production, tracking and panning of fluctuating scenes and emerging situations. In relation to the community of Hoogvliet, any residual self-referential anticipation of participation had to abide to an irregular ebb and flow energising the rap and beats, the shimmering curtains, the dissipation of passers-by, or the serendipitous ‘monobloco’ of the local school ‘bateria’. Precisely in cannibalising our preconceived intentionalities, ‘The Polyphonic Stage’ engendered enunciations that attuned our sensitivity to empower these transversal openings, bringing conviviality to work.


Liverpool 2005



Paul Domela is currently Deputy Director for the Liverpool Biennial. Resounding Conviviality was written for A C_ B__ and is published in: "Entre Pindorama", Künstlerhaus Stuttgart / Verlag für moderne Kunst Nürnberg, 2005