I want to share an article today that was sent to me by an ex-student of mine, Clarissa Ko. Clarissa is studying at the University of San Francisco and is taking a class called Embodied Activism. Given the current political unrest and student protests here in Hong Kong, the article struck a particular note with us both. A number of gestures have been used by the protesters that are now recognisable. The crossed arms has come to represent mistrust of the Central Government in Beijing. Hands held in the air was seen after tear gas was employed against them and borrowed from the non-violent protests held in Missouri, following the killing of Michael Brown. Adapted from it original “hands up, don’t shoot” meaning in Missouri, it was used here by the student protesters to indicate to the police that their intentions were entirely peaceful. Universal gesture at its most potent. The Washington Post wrote about gesture used in mass protests around the world in the last few years, and produced this info graphic:
The article I referred to at the beginning, entitled Gesture, Choreography, and Protest in Ferguson, was written by Anusha Kedhar, Assistant Professor of Dance at Colorado College and makes fascinating reading. My colleague, Lou, has already used it as a way into the study of Peter Brook, the grand master of universal theatre . Published on The Feminist Wire, the piece is lengthy so I am only going to reproduce an extract here – you can read the rest at your leisure.
A Choreopolitics of Freedom: André Lepecki recently wrote about “choreopolicing” and “choreopolitics.” He defines choreopolitics as the choreography of protest, or even simply the freedom to move freely, which he claims is the ultimate expression of the political. He defines choreopolicing as the way in which “the police determines the space of circulation for protesters and ensures that everyone is in their permissible place”—imposing blockades, dispersing crowds, dragging bodies. The purpose of choreopolicing, he argues, is “to de-mobilize political action by means of implementing a certain kind of movement that prevents any formation and expression of the political.” Lepecki then asks what are the relations between political demonstrations as expressions of freedom, and police counter-moves as implementations of obedience? How do the choreopolitics of protest and the choreopolicing of the state interact?
Powerful stuff, I’m sure you’d agree. Brecht would have loved it too!