What will remain, what is to come? Reflections on an archive for contemporary dance

Christopher Drum

In a double sense, an archive for contemporary dance presents itself to us as an archive without an object:

  1. Dance as an art form can only be archived in fragments. What should actually be transported beyond time by means of the archive stays in the present and disappears with it. Without a trace? By no means. But the few traces that dance leaves behind in other forms of representation – description, image, film – offer no more than a retrospective, a small window on what dance once was.
  2. The technical achievements at the end of the 20th century have in turn multiplied these ‘other forms of representation’ ad infinitum. With the rise of the digital, these representations have moved away from their objecthood – physicality plays just as little a role as uniqueness. Here, however, a new possibility of the archive presents itself: In addition to the institution of documentation and preservation, a utopian space of mobility has opened up. Objects emerge from other archives like bubbles in water. Certainly, they still have to be found, as the catalog, the database is indispensable, but they have left their initial location and find their way to us via the digital. The archive as a workshop offers dance a new opportunity to engage with itself. To follow the traces of dance would be to give dance a new form in the long term by freely processing its traces and repeatedly rearranging them.