On November 11, 2021, artist Joseph Hernandez presented an intensive and empathic birthday speech at the TENZA Schmiede on the occasion of TanzNetzDresden’s anniversary. We were very moved and entertained as well. Therefore we would like to give you the opportunity to read Joseph’s speech again today in full length.
On Community I open my eyes in a place that I know. I think that is something that I, as an artist in this century take for granted. I look around me and I see the signs of connection everywhere, though I think that, at times, this is something that, if I don’t focus on it enough, it can become blurred and discounted.
When I was young I wanted to have the kind of life that I have now. I wanted to have the kind of freedom and support that has somehow, miraculously, been afforded to me. As I sit down to write this I am confronted with the magnitude of this support, and the depth of the possibility that is given to me through the community that I am now a part of.
The way that connection works is slippery and unmanageable. The art we make, and the conversations we have, are placed within the boundaries of our perception. We are only able to see and to respond to the love and the support that we are open to, and I want to spend the next few minutes speaking about the kinds of connections that have benefited me in my pursuit of whatever it is that I am pursuing.
I arrived here in 2014 in a state similar to the state that I am in now though I, like many of you, have been in a lot of flux lately. The heart beats wild and consequent. It howls at and writhes, making sense of the things that it can and deliberating fiercely with its surroundings. We stretch and try and make space for it, but it is inevitably gobbled up by words and social interactions of our environment. The amount of pressure we put on the way that we are perceived, and the way that we perceive others can often be a detriment to our primary mission.
My primary mission, like all of yours, is to exist in a place in society that we have to create ourselves. The bulk of our work is the work of creating relevance in our field. We exist on the fringes like aliens. People don’t believe that we exist. The work that we make disappears into the air and we celebrate its fragility. We work within the confines of the capitalist paradigm but we are acolytes of flux. We are not necessarily bound to the rules set forth by the powers that be, but we have to be able to articulate them.
I stand here with you today in order to celebrate that we are all still alive. This can sound like the hyperbolic ramblings of an adolescent art maker, but I think this is one of the most basic things to highlight. There is no greater joy than to look around yourself and to see the fight ongoing.
The best, most recent dance memory I have is: The night was thick and I was rolling in it. My body was exhausted and my mind was a mix of memory and sensation; tales of failure and success, measured together in harmony with the joy of seeing my friends at the show. To be a dancer, to be a choreographer, is to be subject to all of these eventualities. There is no work that is made in a vacuum.
On this night, I looked up at the sky throughout the hours that I spent “on stage”. I negotiated my mind and my body, I negotiated my ex boyfriend and I negotiated the piece that we were all participating in. The sky loomed heavy above our heads and didn’t give us a sign if it understood us or not. I thought about death a lot, I thought about my body giving out. I thought about the hundreds of pairs of eyes that would witness and could witness whatever it is that we decide to do, or what we eventually could do with the objects that we we’re given.
It was in this moment, and in moments like this, that it became obvious to me that there is no way to separate our work from the work of others. We exist on the fringes of. Our problems and our dreams are inextricably linked to each other. The energy that we have is only mobile because we decided that it is.
It is this mobility of energy that I would like to highlight tonight. There is a kind of power in the fact that we can recognise that, if we want to, we can mobilise ourselves towards a common goal. We have the power to wake up in the morning and create a social movement amongst ourselves, that is relevant to the socio-political order of our contemporary situation. (Something political that changes the lives of ordinary citizens).
We also have the power to contemplate movement on a micro scale. (Movement research loosely based around “inside baseball” concepts.) Both of these quests are valid and there is no way to say what the right direction is. Dance and art making is, in some ways, the ultimate equaliser.
The search for relevance can create an innumerable amount of outcomes, but the fact that energy is moved in any direction is something that I would not like to loose sight of. The moving and bounding of this energy is, in my option, a sacred part of our practice. Dancers and dance makers have often been described as “apollos angels”.
I am proud to stand in a community that is imperfect and volatile, curvaceous and supple, vibrant and supportive. In the time that I have known you I have been able to witness an incredible amount of beauty and I am infinitely impressed by the ability of this community to withstand even the harshest of restrictions.
I assert my gratitude towards you and I congratulate you for withstanding and persevering, though I know that, in the end, it was never a question. Much love, Joseph.
Thank you so much for your words,
Picture: Alice Blangero